Sitting on the boat after a day of diving, Chris Corbin, a Green Beret sergeant first class, talked about losing both his legs in Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in February 2011. That Corbin was back in the water was impressive enough. But he was back on active duty less than five months after the explosion in Helmand Province that nearly killed him. Now the New Orleans native, who has been diving since he was 12, jumps out of airplanes - along with his K-9 Ax, who was with him when the IED went off - runs races and well, is back in the water.
"I told my doctors I wasn't going to stay in bed," he said. Corbin's outlook, like the other wounded guys on the trip down to the Keys with the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge, never ceases to amaze me. Guys like him and Pete Quintanilla, who I have seen at a number of these gatherings, have an attitude toward life that puts the day-to-day bellyaching we all do in perspective. Though at 43 not the oldest of the eight wounded guys on the trip (Will Wilson, 53, was), Quintanilla was the first one wounded, back in 1997. An Army Ranger, he was on a live-fire training exercise in Panama when a machine gun bullet ripped into his left ankle. Years later he would opt to have his painful extremity amputated below the knee. He's been walking on a prosthetic every day since 2004. And every time I see him, he has a smile and has either come off climbing something or paddling over something or is planning for the next time he'll jump out of an airplane. Monday night, as we were sitting around the living room of a townhouse at Naval Air Station Key West, I got a glimpse of where at least some of this indomitable spirit comes from. In the case of Corbin, 36, it's clearly genetic. Around 9 p.m., he got a call to meet someone at the base gate. A few minutes later, he came back with a retired Green Beret who spent years on deployments around the globe, including being in the task force that took down Pablo Escobar. But the most incredible thing about the guy is that he recently beat back stage four cancer in his right tonsil. And didn't just beat it back, but after 35 chemotherapy and eight radiation treatments, he went back to running, to swimming and to driving. He drove 14 hours straight from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to get here. And he is getting ready to run a race on the anniversary of his cancer. The man is Nelson Corbin, 57, a retired Green Beret command sergeant major. If that name sounds familiar, it should. His son is Chris Corbin, the guy who went back to active duty less than five months after losing his legs. Like father, like son. In more ways than one. When Chris Corbin was injured, his father was also in Afghanistan, also on active duty, and arranged for some black ops pilots to take him to see Chris, who was on the other side of the country. Nelson Corbin told me he was already writing a book before his son got injured and before he contracted cancer. "A few new chapters," he said. Remembering the fallen Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of the crash a Chinook helicopter, call sign Extortion 17, shot down by the Taliban in Wardak Province. Thirty-eight men and a military working dog lost their lives, including 28 Americans, 25 of them special operators. It was the worst single disaster in Operation Enduring Freedom and the worst in the history of U.S. Special Operations Command. In memory of that, here's a list of the Americans killed, culled from The Daily Mail: Lt. Cmdr. (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, La., Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, Calif.; Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Ark.; Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers, 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii; Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Conn.; Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minn.; Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Mass.; Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Mo.; Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas; Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, W.Va.; Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, La.; Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Mich.; Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, Calif.; Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, N.C.; Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah; Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Neb.; Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pa.; Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa; Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla.; Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah; Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, Calif.; Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of St. Paul, Minn.; Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colo.; Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan.; Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb.; Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash.; Spc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan.; Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Fla.; Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, Calif.; and Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pa. Four soldiers die in Afghanistan The Pentagon announced the deaths of four soldiers in Afghanistan last week. Spc. Nicholas B. Burley, 22, of Red Bluff, Calif., died July 30, in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga. Sgt. Stephen M. New, 29, of Bartlett, Tenn., died July 28, in Bagram, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by small arms fire in the Sarobi District of Kabul Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Jackson, Miss. Sgt. Eric T. Lawson, 30, of Stockbridge, Ga., and Spc. Caryn E. Nouv, 29, of Newport News, Va., died July 27, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. They were assigned to the 10th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. There have now been 2,244 deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation's longest war. [email protected] (813) 259-7629 @haltman