Education Grant Recipient Shares Story of Triumph over Adversity

Todd Nelson was near the end of his second combat tour in Afghanistan when a suicide bomb changed the course of his life.

He received third degree burns over 18 percent of his body, mostly to his head and right arm. The injury ended his 16-year career in active military service, but it opened his eyes to the strength of the human spirit.

“Before my burns, my belief was that 90 percent of life is what happens to us and 10 percent is how we react to it,” he said. “Since I was burned, I now understand life is actually 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react.”

Todd started volunteering to speak to large groups and began traveling the country to share his story. He spoke to researchers working on burn therapies, hoping his story would motivate them to develop solutions for burn victims and those injured in combat.

He continues to inspire others through his work at USAA. He recorded a motivational speech used for new employees, speaks frequently at company events, and built a program that gives economically disadvantaged, injured and disabled veterans the chance to spend time inside a Fortune 150 company.

“As much as I have been able to do, I know there are still many other burn survivors like myself who believe that because of their burns, they will never rise to a level of success comparable to their peers,” Todd said. “I want to prove them wrong and in doing so, enable them to pursue their highest of ambitions.”

Todd is a 2015 Phoenix Education Grant recipient who is pursuing an Executive MBA to advance his career. Todd believes that furthering his education will encourage other burn survivors and wounded veterans to also pursue their dreams. Most importantly, he wants to prove to his two children that there is no challenge too big for them to overcome.

“I now believe that life is a direct byproduct of our attitude. I have decided since my injury to not settle for the minimum ever again. I am driven to prove these points to the word before my time is up. Before my burns, I could not have made such an impact as I do today and I want to make every minute count.”

Story contributed  with permission by AlloSource, one of the nation’s largest non-profit providers of skin, bone, and soft tissue allografts for use in surgical procedures and the world’s largest processor of cellular bone allografts.  In 2013, AlloSource pledged a 10-year gift to support Phoenix Society’s Phoenix Education Grant program for burn survivor students pursuing their post-secondary education.  AlloSource blog: http://www.allograftpossibilities.org

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