North Country Marine Celebrates 'Alive Day'
Life is good for Marine Cpl. Jessie Fletcher as he gets ready to celebrate his first alive day.
"I'll tell ya,' he said, "I enjoy where I am right now."
Alive day is what wounded veterans call the anniversary of their injuries.
It's taken a lot of hard work, but Fletcher, an Indian River graduate, has come a long way in a year.
"My alive day was such a huge part of my life," he said.
"Some people say you're born again. I had an alive day, same thing, changed my outlook for the rest of my life."
It was October 17, 2011 when Fletcher stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan.
"I found three IEDs in 10 minutes, before I found a fourth one in my legs."
He lost both legs and several fingers. Fletcher received a Purple Heart for his injuries, and then got down to business.
"I woke up in the hospital and immediately started finding ways to recover."
It was a matter of only weeks before Fletcher was out of the hospital bed and moving into an apartment at Walter Reed with his girlfriend Emily.
A few months later he got his first pair of prosthetic legs.
"The first time I got to walk was great. The first time I got to run, I ran, I've been running. That was such a good moment."
Fletcher went from running to flying. He's taking flying lessons and plans to get his pilot license.
"I've been flying all over the place," he said. "The East Coast is now my domain."
He expects to leave Walter Reed in a couple of months, another big milestone.
He's applied for early admission to Wake Forest University and plans to move to Winston-Salem, North Carolina early next year.
Until then, there are still obstacles to overcome. Stairs, for one.
Fletcher says he'll tackle that challenge like he has the others: with hard work and an appreciation for the good times along the way.
"It's a huge celebration to me. It's my first alive day."
Tuesday, March 11, 2014, Watertown, NY