President Bush, Speaker Ryan Surprise Wounded Vets in Dallas

For many wounded warriors in North Texas, the struggle to rebuild and replace what was lost on the battlefield can be a painfully long fight.

The front-lines of that struggle to redefine what their bodies are capable of is now happening at a gym like no other that is in Dallas.

The folks inside have such an inspiring spirit, and last week, they got a little extra boost from their supporter in chief.

Three times a week for two hours a day, 10 veterans get together at the Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas gym to "redefine the impossible."

Their leader, Dave Vobora, founder of ATF and a former NFL star – says this is their sanctuary.

"Regardless of how many limbs they have, regardless if they're in a wheelchair, they can go out and be extraordinary just like they were when they served our country," said Vobora.

Much like their military training, this gym is built on grit, resilience and empowerment.

North Texas is home to hundreds of wounded warriors on the long road to recovery. Some were recently joined on that journey by their former Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush in Dallas. It was emotional for everyone, but especially for one man severely hurt while serving in Afghanistan.

It is their regular routine, but recently their day became extraordinary.

The former president, who commanded the armed forces during his tenure in the White House, surprised the veterans by stopping by, offering a very simple, yet powerful message: Thank you.

"Hey, if I could get your attention," Vobora said to the gym full of wounded warriors. "We've got a couple of guests. It's not Snoop Dogg like I told you. I'd like to welcome Mr. President George W. Bush and House Speaker Paul Ryan!"

One by one, Bush and Ryan met each veteran and talked about each man's sacrifice and what it means to them.

It was such a very special moment for these heroes.

"I laid in bed for 2.5 years and tried to get through the functions, barely moving my neck and lifting my left hand off that bed. From that point, I knew I could do something more. This gym has got me up and walking," said veteran Chris Wolff.

"Gosh, I am so sorry," Bush said.

Former President George W. Bush made a surprise visit and joined veterans at the new Portraits of Courage exhibit at the Bush Presidential Center. The exhibit shows artwork featured in his new book that honors the sacrifices of countless men and women who served in the military.

The Adaptive Training Foundation has helped restore the vets' physical and emotional wounds.

"These vets, some of who were depressed early say, 'I am going to battle back,' and I have hope when I meet people like this. It's just remarkable," Bush said. "And I am thankful for the people that dedicate their lives to helping the vets transition. I feel a lot of positive emotions when I come."

"I know during your presidency, this was a focus, but now that you have more time, you can really get out and touch people," said Land to Bush.

"Yeah, I do and we do a lot of it. And the key, though, is not only to touch them, which I am more than happy to do, but to help them at The Bush Center. So, if someone is watching who is a vet and they want help, they can get on BushCenter.org and look at a road map for jobs or find out how to get help with post traumatic stress. It's an injury, not a disorder, and people can recover."


"We talked to some of the vets here – you and I did – and the guy said, 'I was really depressed and I wasn't sure I was going to make it. Now I feel a lot better,'" Bush said. "Camaraderie, peer-to-peer counseling and a program that meets their needs."

They are needs that a former president hopes a current leader will help fill.

"Don't you think America needs more facilities like this?" Land asked Ryan.

"It's inspiring," Ryan said. "I think they need more facilities like this, but it's inspiring just to come see the stories and just participate, that's what I love. And just seeing guys build new lives for themselves. They're excited about their lives, they're excited about their future."

Before departing, Bush gathered the 10 veterans for a few parting words.

"You've been through stuff that very few people have been through in life. You've got a Ph.D. in life at a very early age," Bush said to them. "And it's a huge example for the country. The tendency at times is for people to say, 'Oh, my life is miserable. I can't believe this happened to me.' And then all of a sudden, they look at you and they say, 'Wow, this is a leader. This is someone who has overcome a lot worse than I've overcome, and if this person can overcome, so can I.' And the cumulative effect of that is going to be incredibly positive on the country."

Bush and Ryan then handed out "Military Challenge Coins."

They're coveted in the military. The former president likes to give his coins out to members or the military – usually those wounded in action or families of the fallen. It's a special honor with authentic appreciation, from a former commander-in-chief.

"Whether you know if or not, you're helping lead this nation. I want to thank you for that," Bush said. "I want to thank you for your service and I want to thank you for what you're gonna do for the country, but you're gonna have to wanna keep doing it, and by doing that, America is going to be a lot better place, so thank you."

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