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When the ground exploded under Gabe Martinez’s feet in Afghanistan three years ago, the Marine corporal’s next step set him on a journey to help others who also lost limbs.
That’s how he ended up in the Boston-area hospital room of Celeste and Sydney Corcoran on Sunday, sharing his experience as a double amputee with a mother and daughter who were seriously injured in the marathon bombing last week.
“Being that I have the same injuries as the mother, Celeste, it really hit home and I was able to relate to her on a personal level and just give her that hope,” he said Friday on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
“Anybody can say it will be alright - you’ll be OK - but it really hits home when somebody can relate to what you’re going through,” he said.
Video of Martinez and the Corcorans posted online shows just how emotional the experience was for the family.
“This is basically the start; this is the new beginning for the both of you,” he is seen telling them. “There are so many opportunities that’s going to come your way and so much support. ... You’ve just got to have that positive attitude to pull through.”
Martinez explained on CNN that he understood what is going through the patient’s minds.
“I wasn’t born this way, so when it happened questions just raised in my mind. Am I going to be dependent or am I going to be independent? Am I going to - how is my life going to be?” he said. “All the questions racing through her mind right now is, how’s she going to be, what’s the next step, what do I do now? Am I going to be alright?
His message came with the added impact that “I’m a living testament to what I’m saying,” he said.
He was lost both legs after stepping on improvised explosive device on Thanksgiving Day 2010 while searching for the insurgents who set another IED that hit his convoy.
What is to the eye a major change Martinez characterized as having little impact in his day-to-day lifestyle.
“It’s like putting shoes on in the morning. Wake up in the morning, do my stretches, maybe a couple pull ups, and really just get about my day as soon as I’m cleaned up,” he said. “I wear my legs all day long, do whatever anybody else would do, go to the grocery store, go out to dinner, what not.”
And why the pull ups?
Martinez is training for the Paralympics and actively participates in hand-cycling, biking, triathlons and marathons.