SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - As our soldiers head off to war, we hope and pray they will come home safe and in one piece, but as we've seen with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many veterans have lost limbs and lives to improvised explosive devices.
A South Mississippi veteran who survived an IED explosion talks about how the blast turned his life upside down.
Every morning, Anthony Farve straps himself into a wheelchair for two grueling hours of practice. Farve is one of the newest members of the USM Golden Eagles Wheelchair Basketball Team.
"Gives me a chance to compete, something I didn't have the opportunity to do before," said the Army veteran.
Farve knows all about bouncing back and dealing with life's slam dunks. Farve was born and raised in Washington State. He always knew he'd join the Army.
"Grandfather was in the Army. My dad was in the Army for 27 years. I've seen them deployed when I was younger," said Farve.
At the age of 21, Farve's dream of a long military career was shattered during a deployment in Iraq. While on security patrol just north of Baghdad, a bomb exploded under his vehicle.
"Almost like a movie. You wake up, and your ears are ringing. I pulled myself out of the vehicle, and my foot was twisted around the other way and it was messed up. It hurt really bad. I could see my shins and bones and everything just going around, and I was just in shock really," Farve recalled.
That was March 17, 2007, St. Patrick's Day. Farve felt luck was on his side that day.
"My SAPI plate on my vest, if I was an inch to the left, it would have went through and given me a chest wound, and I probably would have died. Because I was an inch to the right, it saved me," he said.
Some 15 surgeries later, doctors were able to save his leg, but Farve walked with a limp and his leg kept getting worse.
In January, he made the difficult decision to have it amputated below the knee.
"It was horrible. I remember waking up and there'd be a lot of people around me, and I was real groggy and my leg hurt really, really bad and I was screaming a lot," Farve explained.
He had to learn how to walk again with a prosthetic foot. The injuries and the rough adjustment took a toll on his wife and their marriage.
"Trying to get back to regular household stuff, it was really hard, and I wasn't prepared for it. She wasn't prepared for it. We just fell apart after I got back," said Farve.
He has remarried. His disability hasn't stopped him from going to the beach, kayaking and playing basketball.
His perseverance inspires other veterans.
"Having someone like Anthony around that's gone through the same frustration that I'm dealing with now, like he did it before me, so he sees where I'm progressing, and he kind of gives me motivational stuff," said Iraq veteran Chris Gray.
With his life on the rebound, Farve still has one big goal; to run again.
"The main reason why I got the amputation was to be able to run," Farve said.
Last month, he had an appointment at the Biloxi VA. He was getting fitted for two new prosthetic legs. One foot was for every day walking.
"It seems 7,000 times better. Everything just feels perfect," Farve said as he walked around with the new foot.
Then, the moment he had been waiting for; trying on the running blade.
"Whoo man. That thing is bouncy," he commented.
Farve immediately took off on his first jog.
"I can do this all day. I'm going to hit that Ocean Springs Bridge," Farve said with a big smile.
The artificial limbs mean Farve can play football with his 5-year-old son, Anthony Jr., and dance with his 6-year-old daughter, Naiya.
"Do a father-daughter dance in California for her school. Yeah, she's really looking forward to that," he said.
Farve believes there's no limit to what he can do now, and he lives every day like it's the last.
"I came close to dying once, you know. I don't want to miss anything," Farve said.
When asked if he had any regrets about serving, Farve replied, "No, no. I'd go over right now if they let me. I got the opportunity to go over there, make a difference in people's lives and come home and tell my story. It's something I wouldn't change for anything."
He's already off on yet another adventure. Farve will soon make his acting debut. He was recently cast as an extra in the new television show "NCIS-New Orleans." In fact, he was in the Big Easy this past Monday, playing the role of an amputee.