A bomb blast on the homefront, big enough to take down a house, left Army Sergeant Greg Speck in a coma for close to a month.
That demonstration accident happened in 1992. It stole Mr. Peck's sight, much of his hearing and led to extensive reconstruction of his face, head, and ears. But after retiring from the military Mr. Speck set out a new goal to earn a college degree. As he explains in our on-camera interview, his move to Knoxville was life-changing in three distinct ways.
In a follow-up interview we learn more about his service and the impact it had on his life.
1. What one person influenced you most in life?
It is a hard choice between my wife and my mother-in-law. My wife probably because she is the most unique person I've ever met. Great heart, sense of humor, compassion, she is smart and she is the most loved person I know.
2. Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?
Yes I do.
3. How can people thank you for your service?
Golly, two ways. If they meet me or see there is nothing that makes me feel better than someone saying are you a vet... thank you for your service. I'm a firm believer in the wounded warrior project charity.
4. How do you honor your fellow service men and women?
My unit 2nd Battalion 9th Infantry Unit has a reunion and people come from everywhere after 20 to 25 years since we served to gather. I have also donated to the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project. We have a constant circle on Facebook staying in touch as well.
5. How do you think this generation of military service men and women is different or similar to yours?
For one, I didn't have to be deployed for an extended period of time or extended combat stress that most of these folks now have experienced. I benefited from not having as much long term duress. The technology especially in medical cases has advanced tremendously in combat life saving. It has impacted the mortality rate for sure. However, many people who do survive have difficult injuries to deal with when they come home.
6. What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?
Besides the obvious wounds. There is a saying that you can take out of the military but you can never take the military out of the man. I'm 20 years blind and disabled vet and lived a long civilian life I pay a great deal of attention to global events and it has changed my perspective on how precious and incredible the our way of life is from other countries.
7. Does your family have a history of military service?
Brother was in the Army. My father was a 23-year career Air Force man. He was a high school drop-out who earned a master's degree in meteorology through his career in military. My grandfather fought in World War II.
8. Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?
Absolutely. Not only that I would encourage every young American do some kind of civil service.
9. How has your opinion of war changed given your military experience?
It hasn't really changed overall in the sense that my knowledge and belief going in was, "war is hell." But conflict is a factor and it is ever present. The Panamanian people cried when we left. I think war is a necessary evil. War should not be used for rebuilding. Its purpose is to fight and win against an enemy.
10. How did your military experience shape your religious faith?
You life expectancy isn't long as a front line soldier. My service deepened my faith and nothing was more powerful than waking up from that month in a coma and I said I'm not supposed to be here, and the nurse told me yes honey, God says you are supposed to be here.