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October 2016

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Noah Galloway Interview: "I Think It Should Be Chris Pratt Who Plays Me in a Movie"

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Image attributed to Noah Galloway

Noah Galloway

Former United States Army soldier Noah Galloway joined the military in 2001. During his second deployment in 2005, he was severely injured in an IED attack in Yusufiyah, Iraq, losing his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee. He was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2015, and with his partner, Sharna Burgess, finished in third place.

Galloway’s book, Living with No Excuses: The Remarkable Rebirth of an American Soldier, released August 2016, is an inspirational, humorous and thought provoking look at his upbringing in Alabama, his military experience, overcoming depression and the battle to overcome losing two limbs during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“When Colin first did that, he just sat back. Since then, he’s been told that was disrespectful. That did not sit well with veterans. The next game they had was against the San Diego Chargers, and they honor veterans in every one of their home games. He applauded them and then took a knee. Other people have taken a knee. That’s still making a statement without being disrespectful. I don’t think there’s a problem with that.”

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Noah, why write a book now?

Noah Galloway: For a while, I wanted to do the book, but then I felt it was necessary because I wanted to be very open about my depression. I thought if I had done the book a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been as open and honest. I feel like when I tell people that, it makes it sound like, “Oh, it’s going to be a depressing book.” It’s not. I talk about Dancing with the Stars, how that happened, how I got into fitness, how I got into the military and my time in service.

Even it it’s not that much in the book, the heart of it and the reason behind the book was being brutally honest about my depression. It made it hard to do. Even when the book was printed and before it hit the shelves, I got really nervous. People have been really sweet to me on social media. They say they admire me and call me a hero and all these things.

I worried that the book was going to take away this image they have of me. But, I felt writing it was necessary because I wanted it to relate to somebody that may have been going through the same thing. The response has been incredible. I had some people say that they thought it was going to be a book that was about … not bragging, but just that it wouldn’t be real. I was very real.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You said that it was hard to do, so did the writing give you a cathartic release?

Noah Galloway: It took me back to every one of those moments I share in the book from deployment, how I felt on September 11, the beginning of relationships. It really took me back to those moments, and I had to relive them. I missed being in the military, so there was that reminder again that I don’t have that anymore. It goes through the mistakes I made during my depression. It was just embarrassment, but I kept reminding myself that it was necessary.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was September 11, 2001, the date you decided to enlist?

Noah Galloway: Yeah. I had flirted with the idea of joining the military, but wasn’t sold on it. I come from a very patriotic family, so I supported the military, and a lot of my family members served. But, I just didn’t think I would fit in there. Then, when 9/11 happened, it wasn’t about fitting in. I felt it was necessary for the country to do my part.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you support the Iraq War and the toppling of the government of Saddam Hussein?

Noah Galloway: Since then, I’ve talked with different leaders I had back then, and we all had to make the same mindset. We didn’t get into the political side. It was like, “Okay. This is where we’re being told to go, so this is where we’re going to go.” I remember when Saddam was captured. I was in Iraq. When they told us about Saddam, we said, “Okay.” It wasn’t this big moment for us because we were still working daily on the streets. What I saw was what was happening directly in front of me.

We didn’t worry about the bigger picture at the time. You just couldn’t. There was so much going on. You had to trust your leadership on what was being asked of you. I get that sense in many of my friends who have served. Once they get out, they can become a little more political with things, whether they were for or against the war, But, when you’re in the military, you do what you’re told regardless.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You talk about nurse Ashley Voss in the book and how she talked to you after you were hurt. There has been a lot of controversy over putting women on the front lines in war. What are your feelings?

Noah Galloway: There’s not a problem at all about having women on the front lines for a couple of reasons. I’ve met women who are tougher than a lot of men I know. I’ve met men that aren’t as tough as a lot of women I know. There’s always that exception to the rule, but Ashley is a very strong-willed woman. She reminds me of my sisters. We’re very good friends. She’s very strong-willed, very successful, but she also has this motherly side, and that’s what drives her to be as successful as she is in the medical field.

While she is still a nurse, she is also a helicopter rescue specialist. She hangs from guidewires as they pick people up and strap them and get them out of crazy locations. She’s very tough, and as I said, very motherly. That was necessary with my injuries. Ashley was in my ear talking to me as they were trying to work on me because I wouldn’t calm down. But, hearing her, calmed me. I don’t remember that moment, but everyone’s told me about it. Yeah. I don’t see a problem at all with women on the front lines. I think that’s old school mentality, and I think that’ll go away just like everything else.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In the book, you said that Lt. Jerry Eidson was a very religious man. What about you?

Noah Galloway: I was, but I don’t choose a side politically, and I don’t talk about religion because I have so many different people that have supported me through all of this, especially via social media, with all different backgrounds. I always say that I don’t talk about politics, religion, Alabama and Auburn football (laughs). But, I mentioned that Jerry is a very religious man. I thought that was a necessary thing to put in the book to just discuss who Jerry was.

Jerry had this moment when I was in the Humvee that he was scared and he prayed. That’s what happened, and that’s why I talked about it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You tried several times to get back into shape and change your attitude, but you’d go back to drinking, and you had a stint in jail. What finally turned things around for you?

Noah Galloway: It was all those things happening. It took this constant slap in the face and then realizing that I was causing all those things. The world wasn’t against me. It wasn’t trying to keep me down. I was causing every mistake. The only constant that I had in my life were my three children. Through every bad thing that happened to me, I thought, “Oh. I am screwing the kids up.”

During that time in jail and meeting those other people, I wondered if they were fathers or if their fathers were in and out of jail and they had followed in their footsteps. I didn’t want to let that happen with my kids. Every time I got knocked down, I had to think about them and try and pull myself back up.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): To veterans returning with physical and mental issues, what do you say to them about finding help?

Noah Galloway: During the book tour, I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about the healthcare system for veterans. I’m not a doctor and can’t talk on that. But, I can say this. We could have the perfect mental health system in place, and if the veteran or anyone is going through depression, and they aren’t going to get help, it doesn’t matter. These veterans need to see that they don’t need to do it alone.

I tell veterans all the time that we don’t go to combat and fight alone. We fight as a team. You need the resources available to make that happen. It’s the same when you come back from combat. When you get out of the military, it’s a transition. You need those resources to help you get back on your feet. I remind them all the time.

It took me a while, but what I realized is that it’s easy to focus on that time in the military and think that was it, that it was the highlight of your life, but it’s not. It was a very important part of my life, but it was a chapter. I have started and have other chapters since then, and my story is not done. I will start another chapter after this one, and I will do the best I can at it.

I tell veterans all the time to be proud of where you come from, but don’t be afraid to start something new. I think that happens to everybody. When you have a vision of a future and it’s taken away, it terrifies you. We don’t know what to do. It’s realizing that you can be proud of where you come from, but now it’s time to start a new chapter and build on that. When you’re going through something like depression, you’ve got to get help. If you’re having heart problems, you go and see your cardiologist. No one thinks twice about that. Well, if you’ve got something going on with your brain, you do not let that just sit around. You have to go get help.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any word yet on turning the book into a movie?

Noah Galloway: There has been talk, so we’ll see what happens.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who should be cast to play you?

Noah Galloway: I thought a lot about it, and I think it should be Chris Pratt who plays me in a movie. But, who knows? He’s doing so well that he may be too bigtime for a movie about me. I think he’d be great because he has a humorous side to him as well. A lot of people may be able to pick that up about me in my book. I use a lot of humor in my speeches. That’s my personality, and I think Chris would be a great character for that.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How do you feel about Colin Kaepernick and others not standing when the national anthem is played at sporting events?

Noah Galloway: When Colin first did that, he just sat back. Since then, he’s been told that was disrespectful. That did not sit well with veterans. The next game they had was against the San Diego Chargers, and they honor veterans in every one of their home games. He applauded them and then took a knee. Other people have taken a knee. That’s still making a statement without being disrespectful. I don’t think there’s a problem with that.

Men like myself have worn the uniform. We fought for the freedom to make a stance and to make a statement. That’s okay as long as you’re actually making something positive from it. I feel like that’s where he was going, and I don’t see there’s anything wrong with that.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was the best thing about the experience on Dancing with the Stars?

Noah Galloway: When it was over (laughs). I’m glad I got a chance to do it, but I do not like to dance. When they asked me to do it, I was like, “I don’t dance.” But, I put a lot of work into it. I remember having the executive producer tell me about another cast member, a star they had on the show, that told her she’d wished she’d had more fun with it. I know what she was saying because I was stressing myself out with it. But, I took it seriously. I treated it like a job and I’m glad I did.

It was stressing my partner, Sharna Burgess, out because in rehearsals, I looked very serious. My thinking face is pretty intense, I’ve been told. Sharna said, “You look angry.” I said, “Well, I’m paying attention.” I thought about it day and night. It was all I thought about. So, I took it seriously, and I’m glad I did. What Sharna was able to do with me was impressive, and she was able to tell my story to dance. I have a lot of appreciation for dance, and I’m glad I got that opportunity. But, when it was over, I was done (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s going on with you now, Noah?

Noah Galloway: I do a lot of speeches. I’ve done that the last few years. Thanks to Dancing with the Stars, my name has gotten out there to people who have never heard of me, and I have more and more requests to come and speak. I get to travel a lot and do that. What’s incredible about that is I’m able to make a living, and I’m not gone that much. I go out of town and rush back to be with my kids. I get to spend a lot of time with them with this profession I have, and I’m taking full advantage of that. I’m very close to them, and they’re very important to me.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s the most important lesson you want to teach your kids about life?

Noah Galloway: To have a goal and go after it. Even if that goal ends up changing down the road, that hard work toward the initial goal sometimes opens up other doors. Don’t be afraid to make that transition. Take care of those around you because they will do the same for you. I experienced, in my hard times, friends and family that would do anything for me to help me get out of the rut I was in.

As things have gotten better for me, I help out anywhere I can for someone else and for organizations that have been good to me because I’ve seen both sides of it. I want to make sure my kids know. When we’re in the Starbucks drive-through, and I pay for the car behind me, they’re not surprised by that anymore. We’ve talked about it. If we pick up the tab in a restaurant for someone else, they understand. If you’re doing well, share that with others. I’ve had people pick up my tab when I’m eating somewhere because they see an injured veteran. My kids and I talk about that. They understand why it’s done.

Pay it forward. I really push that with my kids, to take care of others and know that in hard times, there are people that are going to be there for you. Appreciate that. When you’re doing good, make sure that you are spreading the love. Make sure you share the love as much as you can.

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