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Yesterday during an address to the Nation in which he honored our Veterans, President Obama told the story of Taylor Morris, a member of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team who was seriously injured and almost died while serving in Afghanistan.Taylor, who kayaks with Team River Runner as part of his journey back to an active life, had been to the White House before and decided to decline this last invitation so he could participate in a kayaking trip with a group of great people. I give credit to the President and his speech writers for not feeling snubbed by Taylor choosing paddling over their event, and instead telling his amazing story as a tribute to his service and spirit, and because it made a powerful and inspiring statement. Here's the excerpt from President Obama's speech:
And it’s an obligation that we gladly accept for Americans like Petty Officer Taylor Morris. Six...
months ago, Taylor was serving our nation in Afghanistan. And as a member of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, his job was one of the most dangerous there is: to lead the way through territory littered with hidden explosives; to clear the way for his b rothers-in-arms.
On May 3rd, while out on patrol, Taylor stepped on an IED. The blast threw him into the air. And when he hit the ground, Taylor realized that both his legs were gone. And his left arm. And his right hand. But as Taylor lay there, fully conscious, bleeding to death, he cautioned the medics to wait before rushing his way. He feared another IED was nearby. Taylor’s concern wasn’t for his own life; it was for theirs.
Eventually, they cleared the area. They tended to Taylor’s wounds. They carried him off the battlefield. And days later, Taylor was carried into Walter Reed, where he became only the fifth American treated there to survive the amputation of all four limbs.
Now, Taylor’s recovery has been long. And it has been arduous. And it’s captivated the nation. A few months after the attack, with the help of prosthetics, the love and support of his family, and above all his girlfriend Danielle, who never left his side, Taylor wasn’t just walking again. In a video that went viral, the world watched he and Danielle dance again.
I’ve often said the most humbling part of my job is serving as Commander-in-Chief. And one of the reasons is that, every day, I get to meet heroes. I met Taylor at Walter Reed. And then in July, at the White House, I presented him with the Purple Heart. And right now, hanging on a wall in the West Wing is a photo of that day, a photo of Taylor Morris smiling wide and standing tall.
I should point out that Taylor couldn’t make it here today because he and Danielle are out kayaking. (Laughter and applause.) In Taylor we see the best of America -- a spirit that says, when we get knocked down, we rise again. When times are tough, we come together. When one of us falters, we lift them up. In this country we take care of our own –- especially our veterans who have served so bravely and sacrificed so selflessly in our name. And we carry on, knowing that our best days always lie ahead."
There are some things kayakers should feel proud of when reading this piece. We should be proud of the fact that Taylor has chosen kayaking as one of his pathways back to health, and that our community was there to embrace him through the volunteers of Team River Runner. We should be proud that the qualities that the President described as being the best of America are particularly strong in the whitewater kayaking community. The image of Taylor not just surviving, but thriving after such a terrible trauma, and taking on the challenge of kayaking is the perfect embodiment of the spirit required by our country and many individuals, in order to recover and embrace new possibilites.