Derek Weida lost his leg during battle in Iraq but he persevered through that and a crushing emotional toll to become our new role model and life coach
Derek Weida is an All-American badass, a handsome bearded gentleman and one hell of a social media follow. He describes himself as a “wounded veteran, nay, amputee-extraordinaire.” He was a paratrooper in the elite 82nd Airborne Division. “On June 23, 2007, I was shot side-to-side through the right knee during a nighttime house raid in the Shaab Ur district of Baghdad,” he says. “I fought hard through 18 months of surgeries and physical therapy to rehab my knee so I could return to my unit. Sometimes things are just out of our control and I was medically retired from the Army in June 2009. I spent 2008-2010 angry, depressed, drunk and suicidal. All of my dreams and aspirations revolved around being a soldier and I felt like since that part of my life was over, my life was over in general. In December 2011 I had my leg amputated, something I had fought to have done since 2007. Once I was freed from the shackles of my busted up leg I began to thrive. My passion for life returned. And, well, I am who you see me as today.”
Following is his exclusive interview with Inked.
Would you be willing to take us through the house raid in Baghdad?
It was a pretty typical night. My job over there was to patrol the streets by day and raid houses by night. The house I went in though was a bit problematic. Because of the politics of the war we didn’t have any dynamic breaching equipment—explosives or the like. This house only had one door and it was metal and glass. All the doors over there have two-or-three locks, so if you hit them with a battering ram, well you know what’s going to happen. I told my leadership exactly how this could play out…. And I was right. In a raid you really want the element of surprise but while breaking the first lock, all the glass shattered and everybody inside woke up. While my guy was breaching the second lock we heard dudes yelling inside and could hear someone rack an AK. I was the team leader so it was my job to go in first. I wasn’t scared and I told my guys something along the lines of, “Now’s not a great time to be a bitch.” As soon as the door swung, before my first step inside hit the ground, I saw a spray of AK fire in front of me, about 10-15 meters away. Next thing I knew I was looking up… And that’s that. I got shot on a house raid. I’m more gangster than most contemporary rap “artists.”
Was your funk in the years following your military retirement brought on more from mentality or physicality, or was it a one-two-punch? 2009-2011 were my bad years and yes, it was both physical and mental. I was in pain and pain fucks with your brain. It’s difficult to be happy when you’re in pain. It is difficult, but not impossible. I lived wrong, I made the wrong choices. Everything I preach these days comes from experience because I made the mistakes. I felt sorry for myself, I had given up on life. I thought there was only one way for me to serve and that was being active duty, I was stuck in the past. I was wrong. And so a lot of what I do and say is to: One, help others during those times because it is somewhat unavoidable—you have to go through the motions but you have to keep going until you get to the other side. And two: If I’m lucky, I can prevent someone from falling into those motions altogether.
And through The Next Objective, the initiative you founded to help returning service members you are doing just that. Can you tell us a success story from The Next Objective? With all humility, there are so many success stories. I’m not sure one trumps the others. These are all lives, you know? In short I can tell you that we’ve had major and minor impacts on a lot of veteran’s lives, and even (continued in Slideshow)...