SAN MARCOS — Juan Arredondo can smile about it now, but that wasn't always the case.
"I'm glad my men were well trained and were able to patch me up enough to get me to the surgeons, " he said.
The U.S. Army sergeant remembers Feb. 28, 2005 like it was yesterday. At 9:30 a.m., a roadside bomb in Iraq changed his life forever. He lost the calf muscles in both legs. Half of his left arm was blasted away and his right arm was also broken.
He was 25 years old and had to learn how to use his body all over again. Now 32, he goes rock climbing, motorcycle riding and skydiving. Arredondo uses his wounds as a pulpit to reach other servicemen who have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's being in the fight without being in the fight," he said.
Arredondo works with the Wounded Warrior Project. They teamed up with the Travis County Sheriff's Office and Skydive San Marcos to put on Leap for Heroes. For the past three years, wounded troops travel to San Marcos to participate in sponsored skydives.
"I'm extremely nervous," Michael Smith said before the jump.
The 32-year-old is from Dallas. He was wounded in Afghanistan in August 2011. He lost his right arm. It's too difficult for him to talk about in detail.
"Just the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "Doing the right thing for the right cause."
Smith's days are sometimes difficult. He said processing the loss of a limb is challenging. However, he refuses to let it become a stronghold on his life, so he signs up for activities most people wouldn't associate with war amputees.
"I started horseback riding two weeks ago," he said. "Skydiving... It's just one of those things you don't see amputees doing. It's not normal."
Nineteen other wounded warriors made the same decision. Some of them walked into the event on canes. Others rolled in on wheelchairs. All of them suited up for the skydive. Nearly 100 spectators ate lunch with the servicemen and servicewomen watched them go skyward.
Soldiers like Ari Colon-Rivera wanted to go Airborne. His injury prevented that. The drop from the sky in the tandem jump gave him a part of that dream.
Tasha Gerken wanted something else to look forward to besides another day in the hospital. She got her wish as she floated across the sky like a feather.
"You forget about everything when you're up there," Arredondo said. "It's just quietness."
He said in the heart-pounding moments, from jump to safe landing, all thoughts of missing limbs and wounds vanish.
It's another instance where their courage take wings.