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A living example of courage page 2
Spotsylvania retired Army captain lives through horrific injuries he suffered during a fire in Iraq-and is determined to keep going

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Date published: 12/23/2012


Shell still has double vision and memory loss from traumatic brain injury, which he suffered when a rocket caused the second blast right over his shoulder. There's a constant ringing in his ears that torments him, and he's in pain if he sits or stands too long or is stuck in traffic.

Painkillers make him woozy and don't dull the aches, so he doesn't take them often.

The military labeled Shell as 100 percent medically disabled, but Shell, who retired as a captain, jokes he's got enough injuries to qualify three times over.

Then, he gets serious and says he keeps going because he wants to set the same example for his family that his parents set for him.

"I don't have the excuse to stop," Shell said. "I got three excellent kids who keep me motivated and a wife who's always supported me. I can't tell them, 'Daddy's tired, I'm gonna kick my feet up and not go in to work today.' Life doesn't work that way."


Shell is a division chief at the Department of Homeland Security. He started in security in 2006, after he was medically discharged from the Army after six years of service.

He eventually went through the FBI National Academy to get a law-enforcement position with the department.

Even with his disabilities, he completed the famed and grueling "Yellow Brick Road," a 6-mile obstacle course that's part of the Quantico academy.

Shell said he finished "top gun" and was the best shooter in his class, even though he's partially blind in his right eye and has limited movements in his right hand.

He runs up to six miles each morning when he's training for triathlons--he completed his first three months ago, with six other disabled veterans--and he lifts weights and wants to take judo classes.

He's talked regularly about his experience in Iraq. And each newspaper or website account of Shell's actions with the 21st Military Police Company, Airborne Division, includes his now-famous quote.

Even President Obama mentioned it.

When word about Shell's actions spread through camp, his captain called him a hero.

"I'm not a hero, a hero is a sandwich," Shell said. "I'm a paratrooper."

The real heroes, Shell said, are the people who suffered more than he did. He said his injuries pale in comparison.

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INSPIRATION is an occasional series about people who encourage others with their kindness, courage or perseverance.