Diversity affinity groups’ guest speaker shares journey of moving forward after life-changing injury

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Indianapolis Colts Community Spokesperson Josh Bleill

Indianapolis Colts Community Spokesperson Josh Bleill has what many would envy: supportive friends and family, a fulfilling job with the Indianapolis Colts and a home he shares with his wife and two children. What he doesn’t have, however, he has learned to live without: his legs. He lost them when an improvised explosive device detonated during a patrol in Iraq where he was serving with the U.S. Marines in 2006.

Josh recently came to Columbus, Ind. to share his story of overcoming challenges with Cummins employees and community members through an event sponsored by the Southern Indiana Special Needs and Abilities Affinity Group and the Worldwide Veterans and Supporters Affinity Group.

During his speech, Josh recounted the story of the explosion that killed two of his best friends and caused him to fracture multiple bones resulting in the loss of both legs. He followed with the story of his long journey of recovery which involved nearly two years of rehabilitation in military hospitals, countless surgeries and learning how to walk on prosthetic legs. Throughout this time, Josh realized that we all have “bombs that have gone off in our lives” and each day we are presented with choices of how best to deal with them.

Josh said one of the major turning points during his recovery was going to the Super Bowl featuring his hometown team, the Indianapolis Colts, were playing in. Prior to that, he never wanted to leave the hospital for fear of how the public would view him. Josh realized people were going to look at him no matter what but he had the ability to dictate what they were going to see. This led to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay promising him a job as the Community Spokesperson for the Indianapolis Colts. In this role, Josh travels around the country inspiring others to overcome challenges and keep looking forward.

When he started the job with the Colts following two years of rehabilitation from his injury Josh said he was told by his boss, “I am thankful for what you’ve done, but I’m not going to feel sorry for you in the least. I know you’ve lost your legs, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to push you hard every day.”

“That was music to my ears,” Josh said.

Josh closed by commending Cummins for promoting an inclusive work environment and providing challenging opportunities for veterans and people with special needs and abilities. He also inspired the more than 350 members of the audience to head the advice he received when learning to walk again: “keep your head up, have a strong core and take it one step at a time.”

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