ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Purple Heart Army veteran Charlie Lemon doesn't take a day for granted.
His life took a dramatic turn when he deployed to Iraq in 2010.
"I was on the Abrams tanks. We're doing missions every day. We're out and about looking for roadside bombs, capturing high-value targets,” he explained.
Ten months into his deployment, a roadside bomb hit his armored vehicle.
"I was gunning on the truck. It hit us from the right side, penetrated the truck and that's where I lost my legs. My best friend, who was our driver, he was killed instantly," Lemon said.
Lemon remembers every moment of the explosion before he was rescued and airlifted out.
"On the helicopter, we were getting ready to land, and that's when the lights went out for me," he recalled.
He woke up seven days later in Washington, D.C. to his family by his side in the hospital. Lemon spent six weeks in that hospital and 18 months in physical rehabilitation in San Antonio, Texas.
"I told myself, I wouldn't feel sorry for myself, that I could have lost my life," Lemon said. “I got to see a lot of guys who were ahead of me in their recovery. Guys that had injuries similar to mine, or even worse and that’s just motivation as well, to know that no matter how bad I have it, someone else could have it worse and we’re still pushing each other."
Lemon has used that motivation and his own incredible attitude and determination to create a beautiful and active life. From hitting the slopes for the first time to completing races, graduating from college, and supporting military groups, for Lemon, the best is yet to come.
"I've met my fiancé, Erica. We got engaged and now we have a baby boy on the way," he said.
Despite his injuries, Lemon’s patriotic and servant attitude has never wavered.
“I will never say that I would change a thing as far as deploying and serving the country. We know when we sign up, and when we sign up for war, that we’re putting our life on the line, limbs on the line, but it’s for the greater good. Someone has to do it, and we step up to the plate.”
This Memorial Day Weekend, Lemon is encouraging the community to support veterans and men and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice through actions and attitude.
"Be appreciative of what you have. Be thankful, don't be so angry all the time. Honestly, just live a life worthy of our sacrifice. That's what I do every day," he said.