Milwaukee VA Medical Center
Paralyzed Marine Veteran extols the power of one
Noah Currier credits one friend with offering the hope and inspiration that would eventually provide him the opportunity to deliver a moving, motivational address on Veterans Day.
Currier, a Marine Corps Veteran who became a quadriplegic as a result of an auto accident, and then went on to become an avid adaptive sports participant and founder of an apparel company that supports disabled Veterans, was the guest speaker Monday at the Milwaukee VA Veterans Day ceremony.
Three days after returning from his second deployment to Iraq, Currier was riding with a friend in California who fell asleep at the wheel. Currier was paralyzed from the neck down, with limited use of his arms, although he cannot use his fingers. Shortly after that, his girlfriend of more than seven years was killed in an auto accident on the way to Currier’s house.
“My left was destroyed, I felt like,” Currier said. “I didn’t really have anything left to live for. I had just lost my brothers, I was no longer in my unit and they were going back on another deployment. I didn’t have use of my body, basically from the neck down, and I had lost the girl that I loved more than anything in the world.”
A friend of Currier’s, who is a paraplegic, had participated in several adaptive sporting events through the VA, as well as the Disabled Veterans of America (DVA), and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). The friend insisted that Currier accompany him to the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
“I was sitting at the top of the mountain shortly afterward looking at what seemed to be planet Earth, I think you can see everything from that vantage point, and my life changed in that moment,” Currier said. “I felt alive again. I felt scared. I knew I was about to experience some adrenaline … it was a thrill and I needed that bad.
“It’s so important for Veterans to have a friend or somebody that they can talk to, somebody that can show up,” Currier said. “But it all comes back to, he wouldn’t have even been in position to do that, or even know about any of it, if he hadn’t been taken care of by the VA hospital and all these great groups. So, that ecosystem of people that take care of each other really made all of this possible.”
After his experience at the Winter Sports Clinic, Currier tried sky diving, and participated in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Eventually, Currier and some friends came up with the idea for Oscar Mike, an American-made apparel company. From humble beginnings in his two-car garage in northern Illinois, the company has expanded, along with the Oscar Mike Foundation, which helps injured Veterans stay active.
Currier’s message resonated with Veterans of all ages.
“I think it was fantastic,” said John Kozlik, an 84-year-old Army Veteran from West Allis. “He was very inspirational. I always feel good when I come here.”
Jim Middlestead, a 77-year-old Air Force Veteran, attended with his wife, Susan, who retired from the Milwaukee VA after 28 years.
“I thought it was excellent,” Jim Middlestead said. “I thought that the gentleman who was the guest speaker gave a very moving talk, and the music was great. This is the second one I’ve attended. It’s very moving and a good experience.”
Both Jim and Susan Middlestead continue to volunteer at the Milwaukee VA.
The ceremony was set against the backdrop of patriotic music performed by the Milwaukee American Legion Band, which also performed the official song of each branch of the Armed Forces, inviting Veterans of their respective branch to stand and be recognized when their song was played.
Currier encouraged the audience to reach out to others, much like his friend did for him, because you never know the impact it could have.
“If you continue your service after you get out, which I’m sure a lot of people in here have, they volunteer, they show up at things like this, they extend a hand to their brothers and sisters, life means a lot more and gives other people purpose,” said Currier, who gets care at the Milwaukee VA.
“So, I would just encourage everybody in here after today to continue doing that and to make sure that that one handshake matters, the one hug matters, the one person that you reach out to, can make a world of difference,” he said. “The only reason I get to do what I do is because of the VA and because of one friend.”