I’ve been cooking since I could reach over the counter. I joined the navy in uh 1999.
During my, my 8 years in the navy I had the honor of cooking for the Admiral, the Commander of the US 6th Fleet.
I also had the honor of cooking for dignitaries, royalty, wherever the ship pulled into port and raise the flag, and we’d hold a reception.
It was about 2006 when I decided that I wanted to play a more a direct role. I’d never met E.O.D before, it’s the military’s bomb squad I didn’t know what I what that was about but these guys had a huge armored truck, they had a bomb suit and a robot and all this other cool equipment and I said ‘Hey guys, what’s going on?” On December 8th, 2011, I was 8 months into a year long deployment in Afghanistan and I had just returned from my 2 weeks R and R, I’d gotten to have Thanksgiving with my family. I got to see my son turn 1 years old.
I got back to Afghanistan and my team picked me up from the port operating base. I still had the luggage in the back of the truck on this uh this night. But we were in the convoy headed back to work when the convoy commander a few trucks ahead said E.O.D over the radio. I knocked the luggage to the side and we sent the robot out.
The robot did its job and separated some components from this IED that was inside of the room but the robot couldn’t get the explosive charge out of this hard-packed earth that it was buried in. I hopped out and I had my metal detector in 1 hand and and a, a hook-and-line a rope in the other hand and over my shoulder. A secondary device detonated right beside me. The lights went out immediately. I reached up to adjust my helmet so I could assess the situation, just to find that the helmet was gone. And my life had been changed forever.
I did not want to become one of those, those disabled veterans who just sat on the couch feeling sorry for himself and I found some amazing things that I never would’ve thought of. A blind man had reached the summit of Mt. Everest and climbed the 7 summits. If he could do that then I could certainly get off my but and and go out for a run. What’s normally um a solo event just becomes a team sport. And before I’d run my first 5K, I’d already signed up for 4 marathons in 4 months. White water kayaking, cycling, running more marathons.
I was going to do it up. I went out to Colorado and joined a team that would be going to Kilimanjaro.
We climbed three 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado in a day. When I got home, I had a fantastic week with my brand new girlfriend. And just days later, I was on the phone I was telling her how fatigued I was feeling, tired, I didn’t know if it was the flight or the travel.
So I hung up with uh, with this girlfriend and laid down. I don’t know if it was 5 minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour, but I woke up with an indescribable pain in my head. It was the original injury from years ago. The damage from the bomb blast was too great. I contracted bacterial meningitis. My girlfriend was by my side. Within 2 weeks, I was completely deaf. All I could think was when have I had enough? My girlfriend McKayla moved in with me.
She left her job behind, her, her life behind and dedicated hers to mine. It is the loneliest feeling to be trapped in your body. Even with your loved ones all around you. The end of my world was at the end of my fingertips. McKayla had devised a way, she was writing every letter of every word she wanted to say to me in the palm of my hand. Thank God for her. I re-gained some of my hearing but it’s taking a long time.
I had to find something else. I had to find more purpose. The holidays were coming and McKayla and I had uh invited friends and family and we were going to make a feast and I got so excited. Cooking’s my thing and I love doing it. I started weeks in advance on the desserts. Italian cheesecake with Ricotta cheese and pies. All kinds of pies that you could think of. And fudge. I was, I was taking ingredients, nuts and chocolate and I was dumping uh alcohol, uh y- kn- whatever I could think of, we were, I was coming up with I’ve got so many flavor ideas, so many different recipes to try.
And what I didn’t notice but McKayla did, I was smiling again for the first time in maybe a year. I had something to do. The cooking was therapeutic and I was excited about the next day when I could create something and I could share it with others. And while I was in the kitchen, McKayla was building a business, Extraordinary Delights.
You know that woman’s so, so amazing and I love her so much.
And I asked her to marry me. She said yes. She built E.O.D fudge while I was cooking E.O.D fudge.
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