Veteran turns personal sacrifice into message of faith - WNEM TV 5

SALUTE TO VETERANS

Veteran turns personal sacrifice into message of faith

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BAY CITY, MI (WNEM) -

“I was willing to sacrifice everything I had if I needed to because I believed in liberty. I believed in this county,” said Doug Szczepanski.

He almost did sacrifice everything.

And sacrifice everything? Well, he almost did.

Szczepanski served in the Iraq War. In 2004, he was in the Michigan Army National Guard when his unit was activated.

“When I got that news to deploy, yeah it was scary, but I was ready to go,” Szczepanski said.

Szczepanski's unit went to Baghdad to train Iraqi police for combat.

His job was to make sure their route was safe to travel.

One day, he had a feeling something wasn't quite right when he saw a vehicle off in the distance.

“In one moment everything I knew completely changed,” Szczepanski said.

It was a suicide bomber, and Szczepanski had no way to get away.

“That suicide car bomber detonated few inches from my face as I began to draw down upon him,” Szczepanski said.

He said the vehicle was carrying seven times the amount of explosives necessary to destroy a tank.

“I would look at my hand and feel for my face,” Szczepanski said. “And it wasn't there. I was thinking, where's my hand, where's my thumb? And I kept feeling for my face and it just wasn't there. I remember the thought I had was, what just happened?”

He says in that moment, all he could do was pray. The explosives blew off Szczepanski's thumb, part of his face, and sent shrapnel into his eye and brain.

He spent more than a year at Fort Sam Houston, undergoing a long, and painful recovery

“Pretty painful nights. Nights that I didn't think that I’d make it,” Szczepanski said. “Nights where it was really overwhelming and the pain was so much I would just writhe in agony.”

Szczepanski has lost sight in his left eye, has some brain damage, and says sometimes shrapnel still comes out of his head.

It wasn't easy, but now, years after recovery, Szczepanski says his faith is what got him through it all.

“My whole life changed completely. I had this plan over here, god had a different plan,” Szczepanski said. “So now I’m in seminary, I speak, I preach, I help my fellow veterans. Things that maybe I would have done on a smaller level, but now that's what I do full-time.”

He now uses his testimony to travel and speak to crowds about his faith, his country and the meaning of sacrifice.

“I've been blessed even more now, and able to do more with one eye, than I ever could with two,” Szczepanski said.

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