From a blast in Fallujah to fatherhood, one Iraq war vet reflects on his trials and triumphs

For Timothy Lang, the time between his enlistment in Iraq and his days as a father have felt like a lifetime - and not an easy one either. 

While stationed in Fallujah in 2006, he and his fellow marines were struck by an IED. The devastating attack left him with life-altering injuries, as well as the deaths of two of his closest friends. The journey since then has been marred with trials and triumphs.

He's been reflecting on what the past 17 years have meant to him - though it took time to find the space to do it. 

He did it with golf.

"Getting out and finding the peace and quiet was incredible," he said.

"I remember a couple weeks into trying golf out, for the first time I found myself excited to wake up the next day because I just wanted to get through therapy and get back to the course, so I could practice."

In the years before, he had gone through dozens of surgeries and days of therapy after his mounted patrol was bombed. While some catastrophic incidents may leave someone with no memory at all, Lang can remember his perfectly.

"Launched our vehicle off the road, launched me out - I was the turret gunner so I flew somewhere between 30 and 40 feet out of the vehicle," he said. "I knew everything that was happening as I was flying through the air - I could process everything."

He said his time slowed down in the immediate aftermath. And then reality came crashing down.

The blast caused significant injuries to his leg, head, and neck. It also killed Sgt. Brock Babb and Cpl. Josh Hines, both close friends of his. Apart from his own injuries, it also left him dazed by why he had survived while they had died. 

Both Babb and Hines "had so much more reason to be alive," he said. 

"That was a thing I struggled with and in the darkness of my own room and a night I would ask myself ‘why me?’"

The days that followed would be some of his darkest. He would had 27 surgeries in the first three months after the bombing. Yet, it was the flashbacks that erupted after surgery when he would come out of anesthesia that were the worst. 

"I wasn't scared of the pain of the surgery, I was scared coming out of surgery because I would relive that experience every time."

It was during these dark periods when the non-profits Semper Fi & America's Fund reached out to Lang - changing his daily flow and possibly the trajectory of his life. They flew his girlfriend out to see him at Walter Reed. 

His family was eventually able to visit as well - including all 11 of his siblings for a catered Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital room. 

From there, they made sure Lang had the right arrangement at home. 

It was as he eased back into a sense of normalcy that he found something to anchor the trauma hovering below the surface: golf. 

"All my personal confidence was within. It had nothing to do with my body, with my appearance, with anything other than what's inside my head and the resolve and character I have. I poured that into golf and slowly but surely got better. And along with my confidence I gained in golf, I gained so much confidence in life."

The parallels have helped transition Lang into being a father. 

He now pours that same confidence into shaping his kids' experience in the U.S. as well.

"As a parent, you experience a love you've never felt before. It's very similar to the love you have for the boys that you shared blood with," he said. "But that love and trying to give them the best opportunities in life and trying to get them to appreciate the freedoms we have in our society is probably the biggest responsibility I feel is shaping the next generation."

If you'd like to learn more about the services that Semper Fi & America's Fund provides and ways to donate, go here for more.