It was supposed to be a routine sweep of an abandoned residence in southern Afghanistan, but as the marines exited the compound one of them stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). His metal detector failed to pick up the bomb; the next thing he remembered was being woken up by a shot of morphine and, terrifyingly, realizing that both his legs and a part of his left arm were missing. But while his comrades were just happy to see him alive, it’s what the marine has done since that’s truly inspirational.
Todd Love joined the United States Marines in 2008, right after leaving high school. Born and raised in Georgia, Love was following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both of whom had been in the Marine Corps.
After training, Love officially joined Marine Division Recon – an arm of the marines that focuses on intelligence gathering. He flew to Afghanistan in May 2010 for his first combat deployment.
It was here on October 25, during a typical reconnaissance mission, that everything went wrong. After Love and his team finished examining an abandoned residence in the small town of Sangin, Helmand Province, he accidentally stepped on an IED.
The resulting blast blew off both of Love’s legs and a part of his left arm. The explosion was so powerful that the helpless soldier was thrown some 15 feet. But against all the odds, he survived.
As Love later recalled about the harrowing experience, “My buddy was the first one to walk up to me… he said that he thought I was dead. But when they shot me with morphine, they say I came to.”
Love was eventually flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland to begin his recovery in earnest. He spent the next few grueling months in physical therapy, during which he learned how to walk and use a prosthetic arm.
It wasn’t until April 2011 that Love was finally ready to return home to the small town of Acworth, Georgia. It was an emotionally charged moment, with hundreds of locals coming out to greet the heroic marine as he arrived at McCollum Airport.
Love was touched by the reception: “I don’t know what to say right now. Thank you so much. It’s nice to be home. I love y’all,” he said. The soldier was then escorted by a motorcade to Dallas Landing Park in Acworth, where the mayor announced that April 9 would become Todd Love Day.
It was here, as he joked about his disability, that Love’s amazing tenacity was displayed. “I was up front with the minesweepers searching for explosives and I found them. I guess that’s the easiest way to put it,” he explained.
At this point the reality of being disabled for the rest of one’s life would have started to sink in for most people, but not for Love. He was determined to live his life to the fullest, despite having suffered such a huge setback.
It’s for this reason that Love joined Team X-T.R.E.M.E. – a group of wounded war veterans who participate in a variety of extreme sports. The team was created not only to showcase the strength and tenacity of soldiers, but also to raise awareness on behalf of injured veterans.
Since then, Love has pretty much done it all. Despite having no legs and only one hand, he has skydived solo, kayaked, skied with the help of a special device, surfed in Hawaii and, incredibly, wrestled a 400-pound alligator in The Sunshine State.
Love has even been scuba diving with the group thanks to a special fin prosthetic. This addition actually allowed him to swim more efficiently than an able-bodied person.
The former marine’s biggest accomplishment, however, came in 2012 when he completed The Beast – a grueling 10.5-mile obstacle course in Leesburg, Virginia. With some help from his teammates, Love conquered all 75 obstacles, including eight-foot-high walls and thick mud.
Team X-T.R.E.M.E. made the event even more difficult by putting on special masks that restrict breathing by almost one third. And the iconic pictures of Todd finishing the race after five and a half hours have since gone viral.
Jeremy Soles, an ex-marine and the founder of Team X-T.R.E.M.E., said in a video that the group’s aim is to “represent” those who have suffered serious injuries in the line of duty. “We want to represent their sacrifice and show them that there truly are no limits,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Love’s creative pursuits are as important as his physical ones. As part of his rehabilitation he’s learned to play the piano with one hand, and after much practice he’s now able to perform Bach’s Solfeggietto, which is no mean feat.
Love’s family members are extremely proud of his indomitable spirit, too. “He’s my hero, he’s always been, and will always be,” said Love’s grandmother Susanne Romines. One of his close friends, meanwhile, remarked that “his attitude about life speaks louder than anything else.”
Love now resides in a purpose-built “smart home” that reflects his needs. And while he has said that he misses his legs, he’s explained that his newfound ability to influence others is a more than adequate consolation.