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“Sometimes you just have to finddifferent ways to accomplish your goals,” said retired Army CaptainTony Odierno of his transition from wounded warrior to operationsexecutive for the New York Yankees.

His inspiring perspective on life came at a high cost. Retired Army Captain Tony Odierno stands on the mound of Yankee Stadium during the 2009 World Series.

On August 21, 2004, Odierno was on patrol in Baghdad when thedoor of his Humvee was struck by arocket-propelled grenade. The26-year-old lieutenant lost his left arm and the driver of hisHumvee, Specialist Kevin Cummings, was killed instantly.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Tony is the oldest son of ArmyGeneral Raymond Odierno—commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq.

Young Odierno moved around a lot, attending four different highschools before he was 18.

“I believe [moving around] taught me how to work and relate withall different types of people, which is important no matter whatyou do, but especially important if you are in the military,” hesaid of being a military child.

In high school, Tony worked hard, not just to get into WestPoint, but to have the option to do whatever he wanted.

“I didn’t always know I wanted to be in the military, but seeingthe satisfaction my dad got from serving certainly influenced mydecision,” he said. “I am glad I did because my experiences in themilitary have been extremely rewarding.”

Odierno graduated from West Point in 2001 and by 2004 was inIraq with the 1st Cavalry Division near Baghdad InternationalAirport when his vehicle was struck.

“I remember waking up in Walter Reed. I saw an unfamiliarbackpack by my bedside,” Odierno recalled. “It said ‘WoundedWarrior Project’ on it and a feeling of relief swept over me withthe knowledge that I wasn’t going to have to do this alone.”

During the first year of his recovery and rehabilitation,Odierno participated in a number of programs.

“The Wounded Warrior Project taught me that I could still doeverything I was doing before and gave me the confidence to try newthings, such as triathlons and skiing. I have competed in twotriathlons and an event called ‘Soldier Ride,’ where I biked fromWashington, D.C., to Montauk, Long Island, to raise money forfellow wounded soldiers,” he said.

Odierno received state-of-the-art prosthetics from the Army andeven received a special prosthesis for playing golf. Odierno hasplayed in several tournaments to raise money for woundedwarriors.

On two separate occasions, he returned to Iraq with GeneralPeter Pace, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to go back, mostly so other soldierscould see someone who was hurt in Iraq and continues to serve inthe military.”

Odierno was medically retired from the military in January 2007,and went on to earn an MBA from New York University’s Leonard K.Stern School of Business.

Retired Army Captain Tony Odierno stands on the mound of Yankee Stadium with Yankee legend Yogi Berra, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of game one of the 2009 World Series. U.S. Marine Corps photo.

“My current job with the Yankees came as a result of contacts Imade through the Wounded Warrior Project. I was given theopportunity to present Johnny Damon with a community service awardfor his work with the Wounded Warrior Project at the New YorkSportswriters dinner,” Odierno said. “That night I met the [chiefoperating officer] of the New York Yankees.”

That meeting led to a paid internship with the club. Followinggraduation, he took a full time position with the “BronxBombers.”

The Wounded Warrior Project has had such a huge impact on hislife that he offered to serve as their secretary and treasurer.

“For me, serving on the board of directors was a great way togive back,” he said. “As a member of the board, I am able to havean impact on the programs offered to our wounded warriors and thefuture of the organization to ensure that our wounded service menand women are provided with the programs and resources they need tobe successful in life.”

Adjusting to life after losing alimb has not been easy, but Odierno realized there were no realobstacles in the way of accomplishing every goal he set for himselfbefore he was hurt—even a few he hadn’t set, such as throwing outthe opening pitch of the World Series.

“My advice is not to let anything stop you from achieving yourgoals,” said Odierno. “As you go through life, you meet a lot ofroadblocks, one of which for me was losing my arm. But there arealways ways to adapt and overcome.”

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~ Ron Katz
Founder, Operation Mend