By now you've no doubt heard his story. Nearly two months ago, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Taylor Morris lost both legs, his left arm, and his right hand in a bomb explosion. We've talked with friends in Cedar Falls about their efforts to support Morris. But we haven't heard from the sailor himself -- until now.
Morris and his longtime girlfriend Danielle Kelly spoke with us via Skype from their hospital room at Walter Reed National Medical Center. He said he was conscious the entire time, and recalled the moments leading up to, and shortly after his explosion vividly.
"I never thought I was going to die. I don't know why," he noted.
Morris joined the Navy's Explosive Device Disposal team knowing the elite position would mean constantly putting his life in danger. During a mission in Afghanistan on May 3rd, he was the first to step into a building, the first to walk over a bomb his tracers did not detect.
"Immediately I could feel the heat and heard the sound and felt the force. Pushed me up into the air. I did a couple back flips and ended up right back in the blast hole," he explained. "It was very very dusty. There was so much dust in the air you could barely see anything. I was about ten to fifteen seconds of silence. And the other EOD guy was yelling my name. Asking if I was alright. I looked around and did an assessment of my body and told them -- no, I was not alright."
Back in the states, Kelly got the news. She wanted to rush to his side, but had to wait three days for her sailor to fly from Afghanistan, to Germany, and finally to the states.
"From when I heard on May 3rd to May 6th... those were probably the longest. They felt ten times longer than the last month and a half has felt. You feel helpless. Still, when I was flying out here, I didn't know how I was going to react. Didn't know if I was going to get sick or cry or faint or get scared. But honestly, once I saw him, I felt at peace. Which is weird to say," said Kelly.
The days since are filled with physical therapy, doctors appointments, surgeries, and visits from friends. There have been triumphs -- like the first time eating with a new, prosthetic hand. There have also been setbacks, but they try to get through them with a sense of humor and good spirits.
Recently, the pair got word that the hard work is paying off.
"We're getting discharged from the hospital next week," said Morris.
"Yeah, so we'll have outpatient status. Which is very exciting," Kelly added.
Morris is looking forward to coming back home to Iowa in the near future. But he's not ready to leave Walter Reed yet.
"I want to get as much as I can out of this place. There's some true professionals here and I don't want to leave until before I can walk perfectly and use prosthetic hands perfectly," said Morris.
Morris said, he has a hard time understanding what makes his story special. After all, he's surrounded by others in similar situations.
"Every week twenty more people are admitted in here. That's a number many people don't hear," he said.
But it gives both Morris and Kelly strength to know how many people are praying for them.
"You get it from all angles. But you can feel it from back home. You can feel that everyone genuinely truly cares and is there for us and is supportive and is praying for us," said Kelly.
"It's just been huge. You can feel the prayers, all the donations -- because we know they're going to be expensive down the road. But, like she said, most importantly, the prayers," said Morris.
The pair especially appreciate the cards sent to them by local students. They sit down every night with a stack of mail, and take the time to read through each and every one of them.
You can watch an extended version of the interview by clicking here.
Thanks to Morris' friend, photographer Tim Dodd, for allowing us to use his photos and videos for this story.
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