Beer, Books and Life Lessons from a vet who beat death

Phil Briggs
October 10, 2018 - 12:25 pm

In 2006, John Kriesel was blown up by a roadside bomb. To say we are awestruck by what happened next is an understatement.

He died 3 times, was shocked back to life, lost both legs, survived 35 surgeries and miraculously walked out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center on two prosthetic legs after just nine months of intense therapy.
His journey is documented in the award-winning book “Still Standing: The Story of SSG John Kriesel” and his incredible story is currently being shared across Minnesota via a unique book and brewery tour.

Kriesel, along with co-author and Air Force veteran Capt. Jim Kosmo (who helped make his book a reality) said the “Still Standing Books and Brewery Tour” appearances are way more than just a book signing, “We’re going to be able to sit and casually have a few beers with people.  We can talk about the book, and sign them, but if people just want to talk Vikings football, I’m cool with that too. It’s really a chance to get know people outside the Twin Cities and share something truly personal with them,” said Kriesel.

In addition to becoming a best-selling author, Kriesel has served as a legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives and can be heard as a weekly contributor on KFAN Sports Radio’s Power Trip Morning Show. And, as a motivational speaker, his experiences have inspired corporations like Target, Wells Fargo and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. 

When we talked with him, he shared a few of the life-changing lessons he delivers:

Challenges: “Obviously what happened to me is not going to happen to 99.999 percent of people in the world.  But we will all face adversity in some way … It doesn’t matter how big or how small that adversity is, it’s the attitude that we bring that will help us overcome that.”  Whether adversity is physical or emotional Kriesel offers a deeply personal observation, “I went through a divorce … I’ve had friends who experienced divorce, and it crippled them for a good amount of time … because of what happened to me in Iraq, I can put it into perspective and say this too shall pass, and I’m confident your life will better.”
Acceptance: “I think there came a point where instead of focusing on what happened to me and dwelling on it, it came down to the fact that it did happen, and I need to move on.  I could spend the rest of my life wishing that day never happened, but that’s going to a waste of my time and energy.  But I can change how I look at every day.  I can wake up and decide to make today great.  Anyone has that ability to wake up and decide to make it a great day.”

Plan: “It’s important to not shoot from the hip on everything, but as we all know in the military ‘Plan A’ doesn’t always work, and it’s Plan B, Plan C, or sometimes Z that we end up with … I have this thing in my living room that says ‘Life is all about how you handle Plan B’ and that’s really what it’s all about. “  

Support: “I think a lot of people will choose to isolate themselves because they don’t want to ask for help.  Once I got hurt it forced me to accept help, to rely on other people.  It was humbling to accept the fact that people were having fundraisers to help me build a handicap accessible house. But once I accepted that people were trying to help, I could focus on my recovery … and talking to my friends. It’s okay to accept support when you’re not having a good day.”

Humor: “I think that’s been the biggest thing.  If you can’t laugh about your situation or struggles it’s going to make it a lot tougher.  I think on my radio show every Friday, I make some kind of joke about my legs.  And when people see me in shorts and don’t know what to say, I make jokes and suddenly they’re like, ‘oh he’s fine with it’ and it helps them be more accepting as well … now when my buddies and I go on Vegas trips we make jokes like, whoever shares the bed with me, I’m automatically going to be the little spoon.  And people might be mortified by that, but I’m like what the hell … you gotta laugh about it!”

For information about John Kriesel click here


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