Michigan soldier finds medicine in marathons

They say attitude is everything.

"I actually, officially, have died nine times. So, if I was a cat I've used them all up."

But having a sense of humor helps, too, especially for Sgt. Nicholas Koulchar. The Brighton resident was severly injured when the vehicle he was riding in ran over an IED during the *seige of Sadr City in Iraq.* http://www.strykerbook.com/the-book/ His driver was mortally wounded.

"We were just kind of talking to each other, telling jokes, talking about life, things that we want to do when we get out of Iraq, famly, and then everything just kind of goes dark," he remembers.

Sgt. Koulchar was aware of the danger going in.

"First day of basic training rules, you know, they have you sat down and they say, 'If you don't want to get blown up you might want to find another job.'"

Deapite that warning, he was not prepared for the aftermath of the explosion. His truck commander was the one who broke the news.

"He had turned to come through where I was at, to get to the back of the vehicle, and at that point in time he basically told me I was, uh - he used some colorful language - but he basically told me I was screwed. That I was severely injured. I had looked up and realized that my legs were more than just broken; they were catastrophicly injured," Koulchar says. 

Sgt. Koulchar would eventuallty lose his both of his legs, but he didn't lose his fighting spirit even though he did become extremely frustrated at times.

"Now you have to relearn how to do even do the most basic things; get around; go to the bathroom; bathe yourself; all this stuff that's basic and taken for granted. And you have to learn how to do everything all over again, and you have to develop the patience to not get mad all of the time," he says.  

While recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Sgt. Koulchar was approached by Achilles International. It's a group that strives to bring hope, inspiration and the joys of achievement to those with disabilties. 

"They would say, 'Hey, we have these hand cycles. They're outside. Do you want to give it a try? It's a way of therapy.' And I said no for about 12 months, and finally, one day, they talked me into getting on one."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sgt. Koulchar has now completed 20 marathons on his handcyle, including multiple Detroit Free Press Marathons.

"One of the things that I hope through anything I do is for people to see that, yes I'm overcoming my physical battle, but also there's an emotional battle that goes there as well. I'm hoping that it just inspires them to look for maybe something of their own," he says.

Seven years post blast, Sgt. Koulchar is working as a service officer with Livingston County Veterans Services. When he's not spending time with his wife, Dani, and dogs Demo and Blitz, you can find him training for marathons at Kensington Metro Park. He also competes in obstacle courses and mud runs.

His next challenge?  He hopes to become a daddy.   

"It's been hard; it's been a struggle," he says. "But though suffering comes strength. Find a way to embrace your dark time, your suffering, and turn it into a strength. Find a way to maybe use that suffering to maybe help  other people. Maybe through helping others, you'll find a way that helps yourself."

Editor's Note: Footage in this segment comes courtesy of Konrad R.K. Ludwig, author of "Stryker: The Siege of Sadr City." You can learn more about his book here.