I Smile A Lot More By Greg Gadson

Greg GadsonsittingProbably the most unexpected thing about me is that by virtue of being an athlete, I had actually felt judged years before I ever looked physically different. That is because when you are an athlete, people are always watching you, and you always have to perform, even on and off the field.  Back then, quite ironically, I may have had my body physically in tact, but I was never comfortable with my looks. I was aware that due to my size I must have looked really intimidating.  But in general, I operated out of fear….fear of how what others were thinking of me, how they perceived me.  My greatest fear was of failure.  In some respects, my fears were not misplaced, however.  My first boss years ago even confided in me that people that met me were afraid.  I was grateful for his honesty, and worked hard to have people get to know me first….the person rather than the fit athlete.

To give some more context about me, I graduated from West Point where I played football, and hold a Masters Degree from Georgetown. West Point was the place I met my beautiful wife…we’ve been married for twenty six years and have two wonderful children.  Ultimately, I became a Colonel in the U.S. Army andGregGadsonarmy I also assumed command June 25, 2012, of Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  It was because of my military service, where I was stationed abroad for long stretches of time, that I found myself in Baghdad in 2007.  That is when the accident happened. There I lost my legs in addition to receiving other injuries as a result of a roadside bomb exploding. I was in the hospital for 45 days and of course initially, it all was a shock.  But then, while there I was faced with the first opportunity to hide my body.  I had a steady stream of visitors and at one point a nurse asked if I wanted them to leave when it was time to show my bandages and newly changed body.  It was in that moment I realized I had a choice, and I realized that I needed to let go and let them all see me for what I had become. I had nothing to hide since this was now me.

Immediately, and perhaps ironically, by taking this action, it felt like shackles I had self-imposed were finally being removed and I felt free! I realized that this was the new me and I couldn’t care any longer what people felt.  Even more importantly, I realized that although I was certainly at an emotionally vulnerable point in my life, that I still had my loving family, who unconditionally accepted me regardless of my physical change.  To them, I was still their dad, husband, even still their role model. They had always been my proudest accomplishment and somehow, despite what had happened to me, I was still theirs.  That gave me a lot of strength.

GregGadsonBattleshipAs a result, these days I wear my scars proudly, and I do not seek to hide them whatsoever.  I’ve come to realize that life is precious, tomorrow is not promised, and every day I wake up is an opportunity to make a difference.  I love to travel, and my goal is to scuba dive in the Red Sea one day soon. For those of you who have seen an old movie called, “Shaft,” I am greatly inspired by the late director and photographer Gordon Parks.  Like Parks, I have followed my lifetime love for photography and some of my works have been featured at Gallery 138 in Manhattan this summer.  Also, with my success in my break-out role in the 2012 film, Battleship, I have also continued to act, with a new series coming out on television this fall.

My life has changed a lot since those days when I worried about being judged, before the explosion.  It’s almost as if my life started over, on that very dayGregGadson flag back in Iraq.  I have been incredibly fortunate, surrounded by my family who have supported me, quiet poetically, every step of the way.  When I am asked how has my experience changed me the most, I simply say that I smile a lot more than I did, and I have learned to accept people unconditionally, including myself.

I’ll leave you all with this: You don’t know if the sun is shining if you haven’t had any rain.

13 Responses to “I Smile A Lot More By Greg Gadson”

  1. Frank R JohnsonSeptember 16, 2020 at 8:11 am #

    Hey, Greg! I have your quote on my desk, and use it quite often. “You don’t get to pick your circumstances. It is your obligation to be your best no matter what you are asked to do.”

  2. Kelly SmithermanSeptember 13, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    Sitting home watching Battleship for the 2nd or 3rd time and please don’t be offended, but did not know who you were and had assumed that your amputations were computer effects like Gary Sinise in Forrest Gump then I realized that no I remembered your face from a Wounded Warrior commercial and looked you up on the internet and was amazed at your accomplishments, you are a Hero and National Treasure and inspiration. I am a nurse and have met different people who spend their time feeling sorry for themselves and they of course maybe are just not strong mentally but you are such a wonderful inspiration accomplishing so much and that is besides the fact of being a double amputee. God Bless you and your family.

  3. HandyortungSeptember 1, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

    Timo, Bastian, and their co-hosts are familiar with Smile and our products and use them daily, so they can speak knowledgeably to their audience.

  4. AprylAugust 31, 2015 at 1:00 pm #


    It was great meeting you at the WWP regatta in HI & hope that you enjoyed your stay while here. I look forward to many more events with you.


  5. Richard CullenAugust 15, 2015 at 6:06 am #

    Greg look at our website http://www.deptherapy.co.uk and our Facebook page Deptherapy&Deptherapy Education then contact me on ops@deptherapy.co.uk

    • Greg GadsonAugust 24, 2015 at 11:00 am #


      Great program and video!! Thanks for all that you are doing to make a difference!



  6. Richard CullenAugust 15, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    Hi Greg look at our Facebook page Deptherapy&Deptherapy Education and our website http://www.deptherapy.co.uk then contact me ops@deptherapy.co.uk Thanks Richard – a great emotional and inspiring article

  7. Jacque KeeslarAugust 14, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    Happy to have worked with you in DC, what a experience it was learning who we are deep in side, a place that I’d I for one really never had the courage or the strangth to investigate untell the loss of my legs. Thank you for your guidance and leadership.

    SFC J. Keeslar ( US Army retired )

  8. Chauncy NashAugust 11, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

    Greg, I wish you much continued success as you continue to motivate and inspire us all.

    • Greg GadsonAugust 11, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

      Thank you very much!!

  9. Carol DupinAugust 10, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Thank you for the life lesson, my husband too was a standout 3 sport high schooL athlete & played college football, & always has had the feeling everyone was viewing him diffently during everyday life, except when he was on the field, he’s always has been self conscience & I just didn’t get it, your insight explains a lot, thank you!

  10. Andrea GrahamAugust 10, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    I remember that great smile and how determined you were to do the very best in all that you did. You were one of those students who stood out even though you did not know it.

    Good luck in your retirement and don’t forget to make that bucket list…look at all you have accomplished so far and so much more ahead.

    My God bless you and your family.

    • Greg GadsonAugust 11, 2015 at 8:14 am #

      Thank you very much Ms Graham…you were always one of my favorite teachers!!

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