Justin Anderson Delivers Veterans Day Message
By Bill Wax, Director of Communications
In his own words, retired U.S. Army Sergeant Justin R. Anderson has “been down a pretty dark road.” But he’s not dwelling on the past. “When you get knocked down eight times, you get up nine times,” Anderson told a Veterans Day 2014 audience at Bellevue University’s Military-Veterans Service Center Tuesday.
Anderson, a Bellevue native and 2002 graduate of Bellevue West High School, said he agreed to keynote the University’s Veterans Day observance, because he wants active-duty and former members of all branches of the military to be remembered and recognized and to know they are valued for their service to the country and their fellow citizens.
As a youth, Anderson said his dream and life plan was to “serve a 20-plus-year career in the U.S. Army…I never planned to have a wife and family. I figured if the Army wanted me to have one, they’d issue me one,” he quipped.
“He took the first step in 2001, enlisting through the Army’s delayed-entry program while still in high school. He was trained as an infantryman and his unit, the 41st Infantry Regiment, was deployed to Iraq in March 2003. In June he received a bullet wound to his left knee in combat in Bagdad. He returned to his unit but had to take a medical retirement from the military after returning home in 2004.
During the following decade, he completed B.S. in Project Management program classes from Bellevue University in 2010 and graduated from the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute, Phoenix, AZ, in 2012. He contracted and was treated for brain cancer in 2013. The cancer went into remission but recently returned. In June 2014, his left leg was amputated at the knee due to complications from the 2003 wound. Recently the cancer returned.
But Anderson, a highly decorated soldier, recipient of the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart, and numerous service ribbons, didn’t talk much about himself. Instead he focused on Veterans Day, its origin on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, the end of World War I, and he talked about other veterans, those who have served in the military in war and peacetime.
In 2013 he married to his wife, Kristen, and they have a daughter, Lylah. Now permanently disabled from his war wounds, Anderson devotes much of his free time to family, friends and motorcycles. He also accepts requests public speaking engagements at various organizations and talking to high school students. “I’m trying to pick up where our older veterans have left off, because there are not enough younger veterans willing to talk about what they’ve been through. As recently as three years ago, I wouldn’t talk about it either,” he said.