Tyler "Ty" Ziegel’s life was marred with challenges but his steadfast resolve and steely character trumped all of them.
Born in a middle-class-working family in Illinois on October 16, 1982 he enlisted in the United States Marines Corps at the age of 19. He was sent for active duty in Iraq in 2003. For those unaware, the Marines are known for their rigorous training and less than 20% who enlist for the branch actually make it to the final phase of the said enlistment.
It was in Iraq in 2004 where a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device near the truck in which Ty was sitting, which was part of a larger convoy. He survived but suffered grievous injuries. His left arm was amputated below the elbow, three fingers of his right hand were lost, a big toe was transplanted in place of the thumb; Ty became blind in one eye; his ears, nose and lips were burnt off. Also he had shrapnel in his skull, owing to which above the eyebrows, there was a hole in the bone. For future use, part of Ty’s skull was implanted into the fatty tissues of the upper part of his body and artificial plate was placed instead of it. Ty also lost his tear duct, replaced by a prosthesis. In spite of all these efforts, some parts of the face that were lost failed to recover even after he underwent more than 30 surgeries.
This harrowing tryst with his body continued till late 2006, when the doctors finally decided to stop performing any more cosmetic surgeries on him and Ty decided that it was now time for him to start trying to live a normal life.
The first ray of hope for him came in the form of his fiancé Renée Kline. They had got engaged during a break between Ty’s Iraq tours and she stood by him like a rock throughout his clinical ordeal. Their wedding was cause for celebration for people who hailed the couple’s indomitable spirit and the day was declared a State Holiday in Illinois.
He then resumed his social life, actively participating in a show called "Special Investigations Unit" by CNN and also involved himself in working for War Veterans.
However, he and Renée had to separate shortly thereafter and on December 26, 2012, Ty succumbed to injuries caused by a nasty fall on ice. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members for his valour and spirit.
He may not be in this world anymore but his bravery and spirit shall inspire us forever. Rest in peace.
Title image: Wordpress
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