On the day after Thanksgiving 2010, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin Gaertner, 21, was patrolling for mines in the Marja district of Afghanistan when an improvised bomb, stuffed in a glass jug, exploded beneath his feet. His legs were decimated. Shrapnel blasted into his abdomen and shredded his left arm. He was flown to Washington, D.C., where he began what doctors said would be a long and daunting recovery. His story is not unlike the 1,200 American troops who lost limbs in a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of them facing grueling treatments and uncertain futures as they returned to life back home.  But for Justin, who was just 12 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, that bomb threw into question what he knew to be true. Three days after graduating from high school, Justin found himself headed to boot camp. Until the bomb went off, he'd  always believed the Marines helped him grow up. But in an instant, that explosion had reduced him to a child: diminished, dependent, unsure. For him, adjusting to life without legs was about more than wanting to walk. How could he prove his strength to others, to himself?

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