Mid-South Navy Lieutenant refuses to let injury slow him down - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mid-South Navy Lieutenant refuses to let injury slow him down

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By Justin Hanson - bio | email

(WMC-TV) - It's a lesson in living from a real American hero. Navy Lieutenant John Pucillo, who goes by the name 'Pooch,' lives by two words: adapt and overcome.
Pucillo has done a lot of both.
"That means taking what you've been trained, mixing a few other things in there and providing a solution for whatever problem you have at the time," he said.
His problems started in 2006, when he lost his leg in Baghdad. He was leading an explosive ordinance disposal unit when extremists ambushed his vehicle.
"The entire inside of the vehicle turns to dust, the windows fog up, lot of heat, lot of shock. The first three minutes after you're hit, you start doing a finger and toe check, and unfortunately my left leg wasn't responding to the check," Pucillo said.
That's because his left leg, from the knee down, was gone.

"I've overcome nothing," he said. "I'm still overcoming. Every day my leg is still not there. I have to put it on. Every day there's new challenges."
Pucillo was back to walking three months after the explosion, and back to full duty in August 2007.
Now he wants to go back to Iraq.
"When you find something you love to do, it's hard to give up," he said. "Like I said, I'm just different now. It's not that it's bad or good, I'm just different. I do things a little differently."

Pucillo hopes to make a difference for his Naval colleagues by pushing himself and others to become more physically fit.
"Don't let the one legged man beat you, and that's the challenge," he said.

Colleagues say, with Pooch, attitude is everything.  

"He's an inspiration, doesn't let anything slow him down, and is a great example for others," said Rear Admiral Don Quinn.

"I hate to be sucker punched, and that's what happened," Pucillo said. "I can't do anything about what happened.  They took my leg above the knee and I can't do anything about that.  That's fair and square, I got that.  But everything I don't do after that, it's like giving them a little bit more."
Pooch says he didn't know just how much he'd inspired those around him until a mom and her young daughter approached him at the pool.
"She says, 'I want to thank you,' and I thought she was thanking me for my service, and I said, 'I appreciate your support,' and she said, 'No.'  She said, 'I've been taking my daughter to the doctor and he wants her to get more exercise and get more motivated,'" he said.

That girl was motivated, he said, after she saw Pucillo get into the pool without his prosthetic leg, to the point her mother had trouble keeping her out of the pool.
As Pucillo continues on his road to recovery, he knows he'll face more challenges.
"I refuse to let anyone take anything away from me," he said. "I know this will eventually end, as it will for anybody else, but you have two choices: You can go out on your knees, or go out fighting, and I'm gonna go out fighting."
Pucillo doesn't know what his next marching orders will be.  He's set to be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander sometime within the year, and is ready to deploy to wherever the Navy needs him.

To read Lt. John Pucillo's "Wounded Warrior" diary, click here.

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