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Saturday, June 2, 2012

One Step at a Time: A Young Marine's Story of Courage, Hope and a New Life in the NFL by Josh Bleill with Mark Tabb

Published in 2010 by Triumph Books

In a sentence, this book is about a 27 year-old Hoosier who joins the Marines, loses his leg due to an  explosion in Iraq, re-builds his life and gets a job with the Indianapolis Colts as a community spokesman.

All true but the book is so much  more than that because Bleill makes his story resonate with the reader.

Josh Bleill joined the Marines at age 26. He never quite finished college. He never quite got serious with his girlfriend. He never quite got serious about his career. He just never quite going with much of anything until he decided to join the Marines, much to the surprise of his family (and to the dismay of his mother).

Bleill tells the story of his experiences in basic training and the special training he received for Iraq with a lot of humor and gives the reader a sense of how difficult this training can be. Bleill takes us to Iraq and tells of his "one bad day" - the day he lost his legs and two of his friends when his Humvee drove over the top of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

The tale of his immediate recovery and the struggle to learn how to use his prosthetic legs take up the great majority of the book. Bleill and his fellow Marines comfort and encourage one another in these struggles and the camaraderie they demonstrate throughout to be very uplifting. The support Bleill received from his family back in Indiana and the community he grew up in was simply amazing. Bleill practically became his own PX as he received hundreds and hundreds of DVDs and dozens of portable DVD players that he handed out all over Walter Reed Medical Center is a testament in and of itself.

All of that being said, Bleill's difficulty with getting his prosthetic legs to fit properly, his survivor's guilt when he thinks about his friends that died in the attack on the Humvee and his initial anger at being stared at when he enters a room makes Bleill all the more human and understandable.

When the Super Bowl Champion Colts visit Walter Reed he and Jim Irsay, the Colts owner hit it off and Irsay tells him that to come see him about a job when he returns to Indianapolis. And, Bleill does. He is a community spokesman for the Colts - and they work him a lot. Here is a great passage that tells a lot about Bleill and the Colts:

     "'Now, don't misundertand me,' he (Tom Zupancic) said, 'I am thankful for what you've done, but I'm not going to feel sorry for you in the least. I know you've lost your legs, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to push you hard every day.'
     This was music to my ears." (p. 189)

Bleill is a spokesman for the Colts. Many years ago I saw a rookie Colt speak to an eager group of parents at the middle school I taught at for 10 uncomfortable minutes. I can only imagine that having a professional help out with some of the public relations duties is a positive for the audience and the players.

By the way, Bleill keeps his sense of humor, gets the girl and gets the job of his dreams. Sometimes, nice guys do finish first - but reading about this nice guy's journey is worth your time and effort.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: 
One Step at a Time: A Young Marine's Story of Courage, Hope and a New Life in the NFL
Reviewed on June 2, 2012.

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