Mark Little, wounded soldier, rehabs at sea
(WJLA) - Military commendations overflow the shelves in Mark Little's Virginia home. Among them are two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.
The retired Army Captain was deployed to Iraq in the spring of 2006. During a routine combat patrol, his team was attacked.
"I told my guys, 'Hey watch that truck,' and in the middle of my sentence... boom," said the soldier.
An IED blew up part of the team's Humvee.
"I was sliding down in my seat and didn't realize why at the time...and realized, 'OK, I have no legs."
Both of Little's legs were amputated below the knee. He was then sent to Walter Reed Hospital for recovery. He approached his rehabilitation like he approached most things in his life - vigorously.
"I found out I was scheduled to be promoted and said 'I'm not doing this is in a wheelchair. I'm doing this standing up,'" he said.
Within four months, Little was standing during his promotion and shortly after, he was running and playing hockey.
During rehabilitation, Little had an experience that fostered his positivity. The soldier, accompanied by several other severely injured warriors, was taken on a cruise hosted by the 46th Special Forces Company Association.
The program was designed to take soldiers and their families out of the hospital setting, giving them time to relax without worry.
"There's no squad leader, nobody babysitting, nobody checking over your soldier. And knowing that I got a stamp on my passport like everybody else and I'm off exploring in the jungles."
Now Captain Little works with the association, helping to plan the cruise and ready the men and women for the trip.
"We show the guys and girls coming home behind us, 'Hey, this is just a bump in the road. In fact, a whole new world has opened up to you. You're going to appreciate every day.'"
This weekend, Little and his wife will depart with 25 wounded soldiers and their families on the same cruise for the third time.