Iraq War Veteran Bryan Anderson Shares Stories of His Trials, Tribulations, and Personal Triumphs in Speech Before Ripon Society Symposium at Mount Vernon

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bryan Anderson, a 30 year-old Iraq War Veteran and Purple Heart recipient, spoke this past Friday to a legislative symposium sponsored by The Ripon Society at Mount Vernon. In his speech, he shared stories from his life, the Iraq war, the IED explosion that changed his life in 2005, and how he has turned tragedy into triumph.

“The morning that I was supposed to go to basic training,” Anderson stated, “I woke up to my aunt running down the stairs saying, ‘Oh my god. Turn on the TV! Turn on the TV!’ So I turned on the TV and it was September 11, 2001. When we got to the recruiters station we just sat around the TV all day long. Nobody really talked to each other. Nobody really knew each other. We we’re just really in shock and awe. It wasn’t until we got on the buses around midnight, we drove seven hours to Fort Leavenworth in Leonard Wood, Missouri to basic training, but on the bus was where I got to see everyone’s attitude and I was actually proud to be there in that moment because it was the exact opposite of what I thought. It was more like, ‘You know what, it really sucks that our country just got attacked, but at least we get to be the ones to do something about it.”

Anderson made this statement at The Ripon Society’s 2012 Legislative and Communications Directors Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon, which was held at the home of our Nation’s first President on Friday, February 10th. A group of nearly 200 senior policy and communications aides attended the day-long event, which also featured presentations by former Congressman and NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent, National Journal correspondent Major Garrett, and top members of the House Republican Leadership staff, among other political and legislative leaders.

On entering Iraq for the first time, he stated: “Once we rolled over that line there was nothing but women and children lining the streets, cheering, so thankful that we were there to do something. Off in the distance you can see these little mud huts where it’s obvious these people live and it was like, ‘Wow these people need help.’ There is no way anyone in this day and age should have to live like that. From that point on, I can’t speak for the military but for me and my friends, we didn’t care why we were there anymore. It was about helping these people and getting them a better life.”

On seeing his family at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. only a few days after the IED explosion that caused the loss of both his legs and left arm, Anderson remarked: “Not only was my mom there but my twin brother, my sister — my whole family was there and that did everything for me. That showed me that no matter what happened in my life my family was going to support me and that gave me the courage to just start doing what I wanted to do.

“I wasn’t ready to not have a normal life. Then going through the process, rehab, and learning things I can and can’t do, I realized that I don’t even want a normal life. I want an extraordinary life. I don’t see this as a bad thing. What happened to me is another experience. It’s a life lesson that has taught me a lot about myself and given me a lot of opportunities.

“There’s not a lot I can’t do. Yeah, I’m in a wheelchair but I’m not disabled in anyway. I still do everything that I want to do. I have a motorcycle, I have a quad, I snowboard, I wakeboard, I do everything I want to do. Now I look at the world as my own personal jungle gym, because I used to be a gymnast.”

Photos from Bryan Anderson’s remarks can be found here.

To view excerpts of Bryan Anderson’s presentation at The Ripon Society’s 2012 Legislative and Directors Symposium on Leadership at Mount Vernon, please click on the video below:

Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.