We had the chance to sit down with Noah Galloway, war hero, American Grit leader, Dancing with the Stars performer, and star dad to hear about his incredible journey and what he’s up to next.
Joining Noah was the Global Head for Homewood Suites, Adrian Kurre, to talk about a partnership with Noah, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites by Hilton that will help make planning a vacation with kids easier for dads.
“A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Sergeant Noah Galloway was assigned to the 1st of the 502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Just three months into his second tour of duty, he experienced a life changing injury. On December 19, 2005, Galloway lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee in an Improvised Explosive Device attack. He was transported to Germany to receive medical treatment, remaining unconscious for five days. Galloway woke up late in the evening on Christmas Eve to learn he lost two of his limbs and sustained severe injuries to his right leg and his jaw. Galloway was then transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.
After a long stint in recovery and rehabilitation, Galloway did what many disabled veterans do, becoming withdrawn, out of shape and depressed. The former fitness fanatic and hyper competitive athlete was now drinking, smoking and sleeping his days away. But late one night, Galloway took a long look in the mirror and realized there was more to him than his injuries. And he set a goal to get back in shape, be healthier and inspire others.” Read more of Noah’s Bio Here.
This is what Noah had to share with us:
Military Spouse: Noah, thank you so much for your service! We are honored by your sacrifice and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with you now and share more of your story with our military families around the world. Let’s start with Operation Iraqi, your injury, and your long road to recovery. How did you feel when it looked like every circumstance was against you and there was no hope?
Noah: I don’t remember the explosion. I just remember waking up in the hospital in shock. Like so many men and women, when you leave for war, you have the mindset, “I’m either going to come back or I’ll die in combat,” and I accepted that. I never expected to wake up to find my body altered as it was, missing two limbs. It bothered me that I was going to be disabled for the rest of my life and that my career as an infantry soldier was over.
Military Spouse: What made you forge ahead on the path of healing?
Noah: I battled depression and was in denial; I was not there emotionally for my children. One day I saw my three kids sitting on the couch and looked at my two boys and knew that I was showing them what a man was…for my little girl, I was showing her how a man was supposed to act and that’s what she was going to look for one day. That was enough motivation for me to get up, start eating healthy, get back into fitness, and dig out of the deep, dark hole I was in. But it didn’t happen overnight.
Military Spouse: Talk a little bit about your relationship with your kids since returning home and the change in you when you were looking in that mirror and thinking, “I am more than my injuries.”
Noah: The relationship I have with my kids now is stronger than it ever could have been if I hadn’t been injured. In the dark time, I felt useless and had no hope. I credit them to all of my success; without them knowing it, they are what motivated me to make a great change and save myself.
Military Spouse: What was it like to return back to Iraq last year with 9 other wounded warriors to the same area where you were injured?
Noah: I made the trip back with troops, but I was the only one of the injured veterans who couldn’t go back to the area of the injury – the Triangle of Death – because it was still very dangerous. But speaking to the troops still in uniform in the camps was incredible. It was more exciting to meet these men and women that are still in the fight, than if you would have put me in a room full of Michael Jordan or any other celebrity you can think of – not that I wouldn’t want to meet them, but these people were more important.
I let them know that since I am so visibly injured, I am stopped all the time and thanked for my service. This was my chance to pass that information on to those who are not in contact with these thankful people everyday. Americans support the troops, no matter what’s going on, whether or not they are for or against war, we love our troops.
Military Spouse: How was the communication with your wife at that time when she just could not first hand understand what you were going through?
Noah: I think the most important thing that a spouse can do for their soldier, sailor, airman, or marine when they’re deployed is that constant connection. You may not get to be on the phone all the time, but a letter – just ramble on about your day – all the good things, don’t share the negatives, keep them upbeat, keep the connection. Though you are worlds apart, you can bridge that gap through calls, letters, that make more of a difference than you could ever imagine.
Military Spouse: What is your encouragement for Military Spouses facing those same situations; what would have been most beneficial to you at that time of your life? For unmarried veterans, how important is the support from the military community and people around them?
Noah: I truly believe that the spouses are that home, keeping the families together, are just as important to this country… So the soldier when they are deployed can concentrate on their job and know that everything is taken care of on the home front. I appreciate all of the Spouses that are home…if it weren’t for those spouses at home taking care of the families, we could not do our jobs. Thank you for what you do and your service for our country. It is a sacrifice for spouses and children; our children face many struggles through deployments, especially for children whose parents face serious injury and depression from combat – it affects the children. There should be more and more information out there to push that [long term effect on children] and emphasize the sacrifice that military families make.
Military Spouse: How do you fight the stigma of “broken” combat veterans?
Noah: My children were my motivation; they are more important to me than anything on this planet. So, find your hope and make a change. You have to find your real motivation and then you will start working toward a goal to get it down. The stigma of mental health HAS to go away – go see someone who specializes in your situation and get help.
Military Spouse: How would you encourage other veterans who suffer from PTSD and long-term suffering to find that place of hope and turn their lives around?
Noah: Make connections with veterans. I can’t even explain it. I’ve met WWII and Vietnam veterans that talk to me like I am one of their brothers and we have a connection that we have with no one else. Opening up to those who have served and been through the same thing can help get you through those things, but you’ve got to find what your reason is to push and be a better person. Those of us who have served are a minority. We are willing to sacrifice life and limb for this country – we are very important and critical to this country and we cannot quit just because our military service is over.
Military Spouse: You have a book coming out – “Living Without Excuses.” What has the journey of recounting your own story been like for you?
Noah: Yes, I’ve been working on this book while filming American Grit. I’ve had to go through things in my past that I’ve worked through already, but it hits you in a certain spot when you have to replay that. One thing I really wanted in my book was the depression; I was very vulnerable in talking about the tears I shed. If it were just that I was injured and then I was on the cover of Men’s Health and then on Dancing with the Stars, then it looks like I’m not real, I wouldn’t connect with anybody. I wanted that depression to be in there to show others that we all go through it. If one person reads it that is going through the same depression and sees that they can get help and there is light at the end of the tunnel, then the book was a success.
Military Spouse: What are your summer travel plans with your family?
Noah: It’s exciting because I have to go on a lot of trips, but now I get to take my kids with me. With a 6, 8, and 11-year-old, it took longer than it would have if I were by myself, but it was a great trip for us, for them to see what dad does. I’ve found that with my kids, when we’re out of town, we connect better and I want to continue doing that.
Military Spouse: Why do you think it’s so important for dads to go away with their kids?
Noah: It’s very important for the men to get home and make the time for their kids and family. It’s easy for a guy like myself to be deployed, be in combat, an infantry solider, feel confident in my job, but then it’s a little scary to think about planning a vacation. The kids will appreciate the fact that dad took the time to plan the trip and make up for time when he was gone – it’s also good to have the down time for you to relax! You will have a better connection with the trip and enjoy the trip even more. Don’t forget that your wife has been home with those children, the house, the mortgage, making sure the grass is cut, whatever it is, while you were gone – your wife will appreciate and be impressed to see her husband come home and plan a trip – it will make her very happy.
Military Spouse: That leads us into the Travel MANager program from Homewood Suites. Now, Adrian, how did you get connected with Noah?
Adrian: Well, Noah and I had an unrealized connection. When Noah won the cover of Men’s Health, I was the 7th place voting finisher – So, he has been my arch nemesis for a couple of years! Noah had the perfect background for what we wanted in this process – he is a person of a first rate character.
Military Spouse: What is your involvement with the military and why is this so important to you?
Adrian: Hilton has been very involved in military support; we have Operation Opportunity with the target of hiring 10,000 veterans in 5 years, and it looks like we are going to blow that away in way under 5 years. You mentioned earlier, “broken” veteran – this program gets away from the “broken” term, the PTSD – Veterans are well-trained, very disciplined in what they do, and are a tremendous asset especially in the hospitality industry. Homewood launched their very first military discount program – now ALL of Hilton has a military discount, because we think that military is so important with what we are doing.
Military Spouse: Why do you feel that men should step up and book travel for their families?
Adrian: Many of things Noah talked about are not [exclusive to the military] When it’s that connection of men to their wives, to their kids, to their significant others, that is all men – we all need to have that special connection. I have a 22 year old who just graduated from college and twin 4-year-old boys, and they are the most important thing in the world to me. My ability to make those connections with my kids and with my wife is so important; those times where I can surprise my wife…as the clueless male that I am, I needed help with that! And that’s where Travel MANager comes in. This site is all about helping ME with really creative ideas from travel bloggers who can say, “GO HERE and DO THIS!”
Military Spouse: How can men be Travel MANagers?
Adrian: It is an idea site from Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites by Hilton. We are making all the processes and connections as easy as possible – it’s all about making travel easier for families. It includes the Stop Clicking Around program through Hilton, with the best prices on the internet at a click of a button. I actually have to end this interview early, because I’ve planned a surprise romantic evening with my wife at a Boston concert!
Military Spouse: Noah, some final thoughts about your time in the spotlight. What was your best memory from your time on Dancing with the Stars?
Noah: The best memory I had was week five when I danced to Toby Keith’s American Soldier – the reaction I got from a veteran who said I was positively affecting veterans by being on the show. It was Inspiring for me to know that I was connecting with and inspiring other people around the world and it gave me the motivation to push harder each week.
Military Spouse: What is your role on American Grit?
Noah: The idea of the show is: Me, a Sniper from a Ranger battalion, a Navy Seal, and a Marine are the cadre; we are in charge of 16 competitors who want to be pushed physically and mentally and we each have teams of 4. Each week I push and challenge them as hard as I can to keep my team in a tight group.
In the finale of American Grit, Clare and Mark from Team Noah took home the grand prize! We couldn’t be more excited for you, Noah, and we look forward to seeing what you’ll do next!
For all you dads out there, Travel MANager byHomewood Suites and Home2 Suites by Hilton is now live!
Take a look at mencanplantravel.com.