Ryan P. Shane: 'I Had a Lot to Be Thankful For'

Shot in the lower back trying to rescue a fellow Marine, Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Shane remembers being thrown on a metal table at the field hospital. "That was the coldest I've ever been in my life," says the 33-year-old Marine. He cursed at a nurse asking his Social Security number, and cried out when a surgeon began treating his wound. "I wanted to do the whole tough-guy thing, but it felt like the doctor was putting his fist up my rear end."

He woke up two days later in an intensive-care unit in Germany as a nurse was snaking a breathing tube out of his throat. A congressman was coming by; Shane protested that he didn't really want to talk to him, but since Shane was the only one awake in the ICU, he figured he'd "do his duty." Shane was in bad shape: his coccyx had been smashed, and his bladder, pancreas and intestines scrambled. In Germany and back at Bethesda Naval Hospital, surgeons operated on him 10 times, fishing out bullet shards and reattaching his viscera. After a month, the 250-pound Shane was down to 205 pounds, but his doctors and nurses, he says, were "absolutely incredible, first-rate."

Shane had been an infantryman since he was 18. He wanted to be one again. But when he tried to run or exercise, his scarred innards screamed with pain. He didn't know what to do. "I didn't want to stand in front of these strapping young Marines and look like a sack of potatoes," he says. Depression set in. "I curled up in front of the TV with a couple of pints of ice cream." He took Zoloft for three or four days but quit. His wife moved out and left the state.

It took time to heal. "I was in the infantry. I knew what could happen. I started to cut the crap and started to work on being healthier." Exercising was still too painful, "but I didn't relapse back into depression," he says. "I decided that there were a lot of guys who were worse off than me, and I had a lot to be thankful for. Considering how badly I was hit, I feel great."

He's trying to figure out how to support his teenage daughter and 5-year-old son, who both live with him. "Maybe I could work for Microsoft, maybe I could work for Home Depot. I don't know. But I know there's no reason for me to fail. The Marines have given me every tool I need." He adds with a laugh, "And no one will be shooting at me at my next job."