Marine who lost leg inspiration at Great Bay Community College
09/28/2013 by Joey Cresta
PORTSMOUTH — A U.S. Marine who lost his right leg in Afghanistan is charting a new course that is inspiring teachers and officials at Great Bay Community College.
Craig Brady, 25, a native of Norwood, Mass., who now lives in Madbury, will be a recipient at the college's Distinguished Leaders Awards event at the Wentworth by the Sea hotel in New Castle on Thursday night. The event highlights community leaders who have all achieved success and supported the college and their community in different ways.
Other award recipients are Jackie Eastwood, chief executive at Salient Surgical Technologies, and PixelMEDIA, a full-service Web strategy and application development company founded in 1994 by Erik Dodier and Thomas Obrey.
Brady's career path has been decidedly different from the other honorees. Straight out of high school, he enlisted in the Marines. He served in Iraq then Afghanistan, where, in January 2010, he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
Brady said he lost his right leg below the knee and spent two years recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. After he was discharged, he said he found a new passion to pursue: therapeutic recreation, which was a major part of his recovery.
"I don't even think about my prosthesis. I just put it on and walk," he said.
During his two years at Walter Reed, Brady joined the USA Warriors Sled Hockey Program. He continues to play sled hockey with the Northeast Passage team at the University of New Hampshire.
Brady wants to enroll at UNH, but said he had poor grades in high school and is working his way up to the state university through the community college. His experience has been a positive one thus far.
"I'm getting a great education there," he said of Great Bay Community College. "Every professor is filled with enthusiasm, which makes learning pretty easy."
Peter Hopkinson, an adjunct math professor at Great Bay, said he knew from the first time he saw Brady that he was a veteran pursuing his next dream, as so many students do at the school.
"I've come across all kinds of different people who are trying to make a change in their life," he said.
Hopkinson also is a retired military veteran, having spent 24 years in the Coast Guard, and he has a son-in-law who served a year in Afghanistan. He found he had a rapport with Brady, and said the student's tenacity has been nothing short of inspiring.
"The human spirit is incredible," he said.
Hopkinson recalled a day in his class when Brady received a call informing him that he had made the U.S. national sled hockey team. The room "burst into applause" in a "cool moment," the professor said.
But what Hopkinson finds perhaps most inspirational about Brady is not his perseverance to continue playing sports. It is his desire to help others in a similar situation.
"To work this hard to go back to school to reinvent himself and want to help other people just says all you need to know about this guy as an individual," he said.
The Oct. 3 program at Wentworth by the Sea highlights the support of community college contributors for scholarships to its students in need. All contributions are fully tax deductible as Great Bay is a 501(c)(3). If interested in contributing to the effort or participating, call the office of Alumni and Institutional Advancement at (603) 427-7713.