By Alex Crees
When former Lance Cpl. Ben Maenza became a double amputee at the age of 22, he thought his life was over. But now, two years later, he and one of his closest friends – a triple-amputee and fellow military veteran – are preparing to participate in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 7.
Maenza, from Nashville, Tenn., had been in Afghanistan for four weeks in October 2010 working as a combat engineer in the Marine Corps, when a horrific accident resulted in the loss of both his legs.
“We were walking through a cornfield and came to a river we needed to cross,” Maenza explained. “I felt it was a bad idea, but we did it anyway. It was my job to clear the trail [using a metal detector]. I was standing on the riverbed, and the guy behind me stepped off my trail and hit a pressure plate that was offset from an improvised explosive device (IED) that I was standing on top of. The bomb detonated underneath me.”
In the blast, Maenza lost both his legs and suffered deep gashes, burns and nerve damage to his arms. He also suffered nasal and skull fractures.
Maenza had to be resuscitated in the field, and he was taken to a military hospital in Germany, where he began to recover physically –but the emotional challenges were starting to mount.
“You don’t know where you’re going to go – you just know you lost your legs and emotionally, mentally, life’s over,” Maenza said. “There’s nothing to live for.”
Maenza’s depression lasted through the first six months of recovery until he had a revelation.
“I had a divine intervention with God,” Maenza said. “This wasn’t what my life was going to be like. Losing my legs was not going to determine who I was going to be. I died – they had to bring me back to life – I got this second chance, and I wasn’t going to settle for mediocrity.”
The support of his fellow soldiers – especially those who were also amputees – helped pull him through.
“You have brothers in the Marine Corps, and the army, but when you go through a traumatic injury like that, there’s nothing like that bond [with people who have had a similar experience],” Maenza explained.