Johnson College will present “Bryan Anderson Day” when he visits campus on Wednesday, October 16, 2013. Bryan Anderson is an Iraq War Army Veteran and Purple Heart recipient after losing both legs and his left hand in an IED blast in Baghdad.
Bryan will speak with Physical Therapist Assistant students personally at 9:30-10:30am. Bryan will then be available for media interviews from 10:30-11:00am. He will also be the keynote speaker for the college’s scholarship luncheon from 11:30am – 1pm. Bryan will then be available to sign copies of his book No Turning Back from 1-2pm with the money raised going to “The 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Cleary Memorial Fund.” A Dallas, PA native, LT Cleary was killed in Iraq in 2005 during an ambush by hostile forces having just completed a demolitions mission. Bryan will also meet personally with several veteran students at 2:30pm in the Moffat Building Lab. Dr. Ann Pipinski, President and CEO of Johnson College is thrilled, “We can’t wait to welcome such an amazing individual to campus so our students can learn from his journey first hand.”
Bryan Anderson grew up in Chicago with his mom, sister and twin brother. After high school, he went to work as a baggage handler for American Airlines, but he wanted to do something different. Both he and his brother were star gymnasts in high school, so he wanted to do something that used his whole body. Bryan enlisted in the army and prepared to ship out to basic training. That date was 9-11. After basic training, Bryan was sent to Iraq for his first tour. “Not much happened the first time,” Bryan says. The second time though, he says, “It was very, very different.” On a routine patrol, his military police convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). Bryan lost both his legs and his left hand in the explosion. He remembered every part of the attack, but after being loaded onto a helicopter to be airlifted, he fell asleep and woke up at Walter Reed Medical Center. “Whoa, Mom, what are you doing here?” was Bryan’s reaction to her in his hospital room since he was unaware of his overseas journey.
During his 13 months at rehab, Bryan’s life started to take incredible twists of fate that would make him a celebrity in his own right. Bryan met actor Gary Sinise visiting the injured at Walter Reed, but instead of just shaking his hand, he tripped into him, prompting Gary to call Bryan “The real Lieutenant Dan!” (the famous role he played in the movie Forest Gump). Bryan was later chosen as a cover story for Esquire Magazine which opened up a ton of doors for him. That led to a guest part as a murder suspect on “CSI: NY” with his now friend, lead actor Gary Sinise.
Mr. Sinise would later write the forward for Bryan’s book No Turning Back. Bryan’s other acting credits include bit parts on the HBO series “The Wire “and in the movie “The Wrestler” with Mickey Rourke. The late James Gandolfini also became a close friend during the taping of the HBO special “Alive Day Memories.”
Today, Bryan’s life is about giving back and inspiring people along his journey. “It was always leaving the place better than I found it. It’s what I’ve been taught.” Bryan has spoken all across the country and the globe after being hired as the spokesman for North East Pennsylvania based Quantum Rehab. Bryan loves to visit NEPA to ride his quad in the mountains. Bryan also won an Emmy last year for hosting a PBS show in Chicago about people using their lives to give back.
However, it is students that he loves speaking with the most. “I like talking to students because I think I really get through to them. Maybe because I’m similar in age or I look young, but they always seem to receive it well. I love being able to inspire college students to do something great and not just be stuck in a life that they’re settling for.” Bryan always tries to give students a wakeup call about life. “There are opportunities out there, you just have to open your eyes and see them.” Even after his life-changing war injuries for serving his country, Bryan is still a proud patriot and wants everyone he meets to realize just how great our country truly is. “Americans take for granted everything they have. They have no idea how good we have it.”