Personal trainer. Motivational speaker. Author. Model. Those are a few words that describe the man born Brian Taylor Urruela. But, there’s so much more to this Purple Heart recipient.
Urruela shipped out to Army infantry training in 2004, shortly after graduating from high school. He’d later be stationed in Germany and after a year of training, get deployed to Baghdad in 2005.
After a year in Iraq and just two days before he was set to return home, Urruela’s Humvee was hit by two IEDs. The explosives tore through the right side of the vehicle, killing his commander and leaving Urruela and three of his fellow soldiers badly wounded.
Shortly after Urruela made it to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, his femoral artery blew and he lost two thirds of the blood in his body. He nearly died twice during surgery.
While his life was saved, his leg was in terrible condition. He ultimately decided to amputate his right leg after two years of trying to salvage it.
“It was the only surgery I ever left with a smile on my face, as if a weight had been lifted,” he said.
Urruela focused hard on getting his body to working order, but he says he forgot to deal with the psychological effects of war. His PTSD would later get the best of him during his college years at West Virginia University. Urruela sank into a depression and began self-medicating with alcohol.
It was during his struggle to cope with his invisible wounds that he co-founded the veteran community sports nonprofit, VETSports, to help change the way veterans transition to civilian life through organized sports.
Now known as “BT,” Urruela has reinvented himself as a model, veteran athlete, author, and philanthropist. He caught the attention of photographer Michael Stokes, whose work highlights the physiques of wounded veterans. Urruela has been featured in fitness photography and has even shot covers for romance novels.
Urruela is inspired by, “the men and women throughout this country who overcome injuries, disabilities and illnesses” far greater than his. He hopes to motivate and inspire others who are dealing with their own issues.
Looking ahead to 2016, Urruela says he’s on target to publish three novels.
Watch the full YouTube videos credited above: Amputee veteran, BT Urruela, coping with PTSD, becomes VetSports co-founder, model, inspiration #The via ABC Action News, COMING BACK WITH WES MOORE | Taylor Urruela via PBS