Stories From The Mat – AMAA Member Grandmaster Anthony A-Train Smith’s Story From The Mat

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Stories From The Mat

Martial arts & his brothers memory kept this Iraq War veteran going...

Anthony ”A-Train” Smith was raised in Columbus Mississippi. His father wasn’t around so his mother work had to work several jobs to provide for her family. Anthony’s older brother Michael and sister Terri tended to fill the parental gap. Anthony says “My sister was like a second mother to me, she attended all my sporting events and was always there for me” My brother was my role model, I looked up to him, wanted to do everything he did and be just like him”.

As a result of this family dynamic Anthony found himself in a gang and hanging out on the streets of Mississippi most of the time. In the 10th grade Anthony discovered church and sports, quickly finding out that this was a much more positive way to “Have Fun”. He left the gang and like his brother began to excel at sports like Basketball, Cycling and Martial Arts.

Anthony soon graduated high school and attended college, but when Michael decided to join the military Anthony consider dropping out to follow suit. His brother encouraged him join the colleges ROTC program instead of dropping out, not wanting to disappoint his brother Anthony decided to do just that and then joined the US Army just like his brother Michael.

In 1995, and they would receive the devastating news that his older brother and role model, Michael had been hit and killed by a drunk driver just months after being discharged from the military. This was a huge blow to Anthony and from that point forward everything he did was in his brother’s memory. Anthony would often think “What would Michael Do?”

In 2004, while stationed in Iraq Anthony’s life would once again be changed forever. When asked about that day he recalls… “It was hot, looked like a junkyard and smelled like broken
sewer.” “I was hangout with my buddies playing cards when we got the order to report to our bunkers because of possible incoming enemy fire.” Anthony says, “I was leading my team into the bunker, I didn’t hear or see it coming… Then I heard a loud bang and everything went white, that’s the last thing I remember... I’d taken a direct "RPG.” (Rocket Propelled Grenade)

The injuries Anthony received from the explosion were so severe he was pronounced dead and placed in a body bag. His family was notified of the incident and told it was unclear whether he’d been killed in action. His sister Terri took it very hard, thinking that she had now lost a second brother in less than 10 years. While compiling information for a report on the incident, a nurse noticed that some of Anthony’s personal information was missing. She went to the body bag to look for his “Dog Tags” and discovered Anthony was still very much alive, but his life would never be the same again.

He would spend the next 62 days in a coma and the incident would leave with spinal cord injuries, the loss of sight in one of his eyes, a short leg and missing hip, as well as a missing arm and PTSD. Anthony says “recovery was hard, I had to learn everything all over again and there were times I just wanted to give up.” When asked what kept him going, he said: “My Family… “My brother Michael's Memory and Martial Arts”… “I’d hear him in head saying, “You’ve got this… You can do it… You’re not giving up…”

When asked how martial arts played into his recovery, Anthony said “Martial arts teaches us to Never Give Up”… That’s why I have this Japanese tattoo on my stump that says “No Matter My Struggles or how many times I’m beat down I’ll be persistent and never give up”…

Anthony also discovered Challenged Athletes Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities discover adaptive sports. He reached out to them telling them he’d like to begin cycling again and also get back into martial arts. CAF helped Anthony get a new bike, adapting it for his specific needs.

Today he competes in Triathlons, is a Grandmaster in Tae Kwon do. Anthony believes in paying it forward and provides peer support to other injured veterans like himself. He also teaches martial arts to at risk youth in his community.

Anthony’s advice for others dealing with similar situations is simple… “The key to recovery is support, believing in yourself and being as active as possible.”

When asked about the tragedy and his view on life with a disability, Anthony says… “I believe that this has led me to do things I probably would not have done if it didn’t happen.” “Like everyone dealing with disabilities, There Are Good Day and Bad Ones, but, for the most part I’m Ecstatic”.

The Adaptive Martial Arts Association is proud to share the story of Purple Heart U.S Army Veteran, Grandmaster and AMAA Member, Anthony A-Train Smith.

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