The Powerful Story Behind this Purple Heart Veteran’s ‘Alive Day’ Tradition
Many injured veterans recognize two days to celebrate their lives: their birthday and their ‘alive day’ — commemorating the day they were injured and escaped death while at war.
Kurt Power’s ‘alive day’ — the day he was hit and didn’t die — was October 10, 2005. He remembers it vividly. “We’d been in country for about 3 months. After coming out of a recon of a factory, we stopped two possible suicide bombers. The whole thing was a setup and I was sniped. I knew I was hit and I knew I was hit where he wanted to hit me. The bullet blew through the side of my chest.”
Kurt was immediately rushed onto an operating table, but his mission to serve his country was not complete. “I got out of surgery, everyone thanked me for my service, and they were ready to med-evac me home, but I told them with all due respect, everyone’s dying, I’m not going anywhere.” Kurt stayed and fount in Iraq until his deployment ended eight months later.
Kurt’s story of survival in Iraq was remarkable, but his struggle returning home to Massachusetts – all too common. “That’s when it hit me,” Kurt said. “I almost died on a table in Iraq. I lost buddies over there. All I could ask was why me? Why did I survive when greater men than me never made it home?. His wife, Jessica, also noticed a difference when Kurt came home. “He was feeling down all the time or just didn’t want to talk to me,” said Jessica. ” I didn’t know where to begin so I just avoided it and it became our way of life.”
Since the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts began in 2001 and 2003, respectively, many soldiers have come home with profound physical injuries and well as the invisible wounds, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTS. In some ways, the invisible wounds are the most difficult to identify and overcome, because they are invisible to a society that tends to think of wounds as only physical scars.
This is part of the reason Power counts himself among the lucky. “I made the phone call that changed my life, and talked with one of Home Base’s Veteran Outreach Coordinators. This wasn’t a random person on the other end of the phone – this was a heavy combat vet and a fellow Purple Heart recipient, who could finally relate to me in a world full of people who couldn’t,” Power recalls. “That’s when I felt like I had finally come to the right place.” Kurt began his one-on-one sessions with Home Base, then Jessica was invited to begin couples therapy. “Home Base has helped me not only overcome my issues from the way and how they pertained to our relationship but the survivor guilt from Iraq that was destroying my life. They helped me finally realize that my survival didn’t mean that someone else didn’t make it.”
Now, Kurt is on a new mission – to help save lives and honor his fallen brothers. “The only wish I have for my ‘Alive Day’ is that we give the gift of hope, hope to all the veterans that don’t believe reintegration is possible. Hope to the approximately 20 veterans a day that may give up tomorrow.” Inspired by his experiences at Home Base, Kurt launched the First Responder No-Shave campaign to not only raise money for a program that helped him reintegrate into society after serving in combat but to open the dialogue and raise awareness of the invisible wounds affecting military families nationwide. “If I can convince just one person who needs help to listen to me and put their trust in the treatment at Home Base, this will all be worth it.”
Are You Ready to Join Kurt and Your First Responder Community?
To participate in our Home Base No-Shave campaign, all you have to do is grow a beard, mustache, goatee, mutton chop sideburns, soul patch, or some combination, during the month of November – it’s that easy!
- Pledge at least $100 to skirt customary restrictions on facial hair throughout November*
- Help raise awareness of the invisible wounds affecting Service Members and Veterans
- Join Home Base for a ceremonial shave-off and certificate presentation
- Garner support from Home Base via social media channels and media outreach for your efforts
- Make a difference in your local military communities