Last week, TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md, to photograph combat veterans and wounded soldiers recovering at the facility.
“He was patient enough to listen to what happened to me,” says Army Master Sergeant Cedric King, a bilateral leg amputee and the main subject of a ten-page photo essay published in this week’s TIME magazine. “When it was time to get his shot, he explained exactly what he wanted.”
In August 2012, King woke up in the Walter Reed Bethesda to his mother and wife beside his bed. Both his legs had been amputated. A week before, King was on a combat patrol in an explosive-making factory in Afghanistan when insurgents attacked. While trying to get his fellow soldiers to safety, King stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED), which immediately threw him out into the air and blew his legs off.
King, from Norlina, N.C., appears confident and comfortable in front of the camera. He believes his injuries had gifted him strength and wants his family as well as the readers to see his positivity.
“It’s not about what happened to you, but what happens in you,” King says.
One year after his injuries, King began running. Last Sunday, he took up the challenge to run the New York City Marathon, during which his prosthetics broke in Brooklyn, forcing him to stop and get them fixed.
His make-or-break moment came when he was close to the 59th Street Bridge. Volunteers have already started cleaning the streets and getting ready to go home. King was exhausted, both his mind and his body.
“I kneeled down the bridge and I just started to pray,” King said. “I just put one foot in front of the other. That was the only thing I could do.”
After 10 hours, He was among the last 10 people to kiss the finish line.
The New York City Marathon was not his first marathon. In April this year, King completed the Boston Marathon and participated in a Ironman 70.3 competition in Georgia in September.
King is going to retire from the military and leave Walter Reed in July, 2015. He plans to run about 400 miles from Walter Reed to North Carolina in two and a half months to raise funds for a new home.
James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.
With reporting by Olivia B. Waxman from Bethesda, Md.
See TIME’s #TIMEVets project.
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