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On Veterans Day, the greatest wound for many is loss of purpose

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For Mr. Snook, doctors say the bomb blast that injured his foot will prevent him from ever running again. But the mental toll of having to leave the only job he ever wanted is, in many ways, just as acute. In that way, he represents the thousands of veterans for whom today – like many other days – is simply another chance to discover new meaning in a life dramatically changed by the bonds of war and brotherhood.

“For years, I woke up everyday because I knew there were 30 guys waiting for me at work, and we were trying to get ready to fight a uniform-less, hiding enemy,” Snook says. “I felt such deep purpose in my life, and now I don’t feel any purpose at all.”

It was Sept. 26, 2010, that the course of his life changed. As a part of President Obama’s troop surge to southern Afghanistan, Snook’s platoon was tasked with clearing an area where Taliban were operating.

That Sunday was to be the beginning of a 10-day mission, but within the first few hours, his platoon came under attack. Amid the confusion, while dodging heavy fire, he sprinted toward a wall to take cover. When he planted his right foot behind the wall, Snook says he felt the ground compress. The explosion launched him nearly 15 feet in the air, shattered his right foot and heel, and scattered shrapnel throughout his right leg.

Ahead lay 18 months of therapy – both physical and mental – to get him to where he is today, a student at one of the most prestigious business colleges in the country. But behind lay a life’s purpose blown apart amid the shrapnel. 

Kathleen Snook says she never wanted any of her sons or daughters to feel pressured to go to West Point. But Kyle was different. “Kyle was the only one that indicated all along that he wanted to be in the Army,” she says.

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