LITTLE ELM, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – For Green Beret John Wayne Walding, the sacrifice he made in Afghanistan that turned him into a war hero nearly destroyed his marriage and his life. But what he chose to do after those events made him a hero from the second time.
As his daughter plays the Star-Spangled Banner, Walding and his wife, Amy, think about how that song carries extra meaning in their home.
“I will never forget falling forward like you would, and then rolling over, and my leg just hanging at a 45-degree angle. And hanging on by an inch of flesh,” Walding said.
In the Battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan in 2008, the Green Beret from Little Elm lost half his right leg in less than a second. He then fought with his men for another four hours in order to get off that mountain alive.
“Even though they took my leg, I still wanted to get back there and do what I love to do,” he said.
Even with a warrior’s heart, it was a devastating injury that would take a lot of overcome. After weeks of recovery at Walter Reed National Medical Center, he returned to his home in North Texas.
“He came back very different from the emotional standpoint. Very much less affectionate I think,” Amy Walding said.
In an instant, the hero who could once do anything wearing the cloth of the United States became depressed, distant and dependent.
“When I quit doing narcotics, I guess alcohol was more important to me… cause I still hurt,” John Walding said.
Pain medication led to drinking for John while Amy felt another pain.
“Like I was losing him. He wasn’t the same person. We didn’t have fun, we didn’t get along the way that we used to. It wasn’t fun for the kids to see… it was horrible,” Amy Walding said.
“Did you understand that you were causing hurt?” Walding was asked. “Yeah I did but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was kinda like swimming but not going anywhere,” he answered.
As her warrior spiraled, Amy picked herself up and put her crumbling marriage in the hand of a psychologist. She described is as “the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Four years later, her Green Beret would finally say the same thing.
“By the third time I realized… this is really beneficial to me. And really helps me be a better man inside. Better husband and a better father,” John Walding said.
John raised his hand to help his country in battle, but he became an even bigger hero when he raised his hand to help himself.
“You get addicted to being great together. To where it’s so much fun with our relationship and actually in my mind, it’s fun to work on myself, to get better, cause you see the results. Stop butting your head against the wall and you start listening,” John Walding said.