From that day forth, their only option is to move forward and overcome the hands they were dealt. For one Seabee, that meant conquering a unique and devastating set of challenges.
In spring 2015, during a beautiful sunny afternoon in Rota, Spain, Construction Electrician 2nd Class Alan Thomas, a Copperas Cove, Texas, native, was heading back to work from lunch when the unthinkable happened. As Thomas was riding his street bike, a Honda CBR1000, he unexpectedly met a car driving on his side of the road. He was thrown from his bike and instantly knocked unconscious. When he came to, he was lying in the road with his lower right leg almost severed.
"I figured I just broke my leg and I would go in a cast for a couple months and go back to work," said Thomas. "But I guess it wasn't that easy; my leg was pretty much cut off and life was just changed drastically."
After the accident, Thomas was medevaced from Spain to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Maryland, to receive the medical care he needed in hopes of saving his leg. Upon his arrival, the doctors took drastic steps and removed 13 centimeters of bone and flesh below the knee, hoping the bone would regrow.
"When I got to Walter Reed, I had an infection so they had to cut out 13 centimeters of my leg and smash it together," said Thomas. "My leg is looking like a 'Z.' I am walking on a leg that isn't doing anything for me. My foot was just dead: It won't move. I have no feeling. I couldn't touch it, so the recovery was tough."
In March 2016, after a year of trying to save his leg and numerous surgeries, including transferring arteries from his left leg to his right, doctors had exhausted all options. They would have to amputate.
"That night I cried and did everything a normal person would do," said Thomas, adding that the decision was ten times easier to make when the time came because he had already accepted his fate.
During his recovery process, Thomas found himself slipping down a dark path toward depression. He would never go back the way he was before the accident. He thought his life was over.
"It was mentally weakening," said Thomas. "I was in a really depressed state. I thought my life was over and I couldn't do anything ever again. Then I realized there are other people who have it worse than me who have a smile on their face."
Thomas' main support during these dark days was his wife. She was there for him every step of the way, motivating and picking him up when he was feeling down in the dumps.
"My wife got me through most of everything I went through," said Thomas. "If it wasn't for her, I would probably still be in a hole somewhere and I wouldn't be here today."
Throughout the two years after the accident, Thomas learned a few things that he will carry with him forever. He came out of it with a new outlook on life, and decided to see the world before he dies. On top of that, he believes he is a stronger person because of what he experienced.
"It makes me a stronger person because it is pretty much adapt and overcome," said Thomas. He added that while it may feel like your life is ending it's about moving forward because life still continues around you.