At times in life when it seems there’s nowhere to turn, many people of faith are able to find comfort by turning to prayer.
One such person is Josh Bleill, a Marine who lost both of his legs in a roadside bomb explosion while serving in Iraq in 2006. After years of recovery, Bleill now walks on prosthetics and serves as a traveling motivational speaker sponsored by the Indianapolis Colts.
On Thursday morning Bleill spoke at Strongbow Inn in Valparaiso, giving the keynote address at the Ninth Annual Day of Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the LaSalle Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
“I’ve never been more prayerful than I was today trying to find this place,” said Bleill, whose busy schedule caused him to be running slightly late for the event.
During his keynote address, Bleill spoke on how faith and prayer helped him through the roughest patches of his recovery. The roadside bomb broke several bones in his body and killed two of his friends and fellow Marines riding in the Humvee.
As Bleill recovered, first in Germany and then at Walter Reed Medical Center, he found himself shutting out the world, afraid to be seen in his weakened position. He turned down offer after offer presented to wounded soldiers until an offer arrived he could not refuse: a trip to watch the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears play in the Super Bowl.
“I know I’m still in Indiana, but I also know how far north I am and I know there are some Bears fans here,” Bleill said with a laugh during his address.
At that Super Bowl, for the first time, Bleill felt unafraid to be seen. Motivated, he prayed his way through recovery and setbacks -- including further amputations of his legs, which end above the knee -- and eventually left the hospital and took the job with the Colts.
It has been a long road to where he is today -- married with two children and the author of the book “One Step at a Time: A Young Marine’s Story of Courage, Hope and a New Life in the NFL” -- but Bleill is thankful for the life he’s able to lead.
“Every morning I get down on these (prosthetic) knees and thank God for the life he spared,” Bleill said.
The National Day of Prayer was first recognized officially by a joint resolution of Congress in 1952, signed into law by then-President Harry S. Truman. People of faith are encouraged to reflect on the seven pillars of prayer: government, church, military, family, education, media and business.
Lonnie Steele emcee’d Thursday morning’s gathering. The program featured prayers by Steele, Valparaiso mayor Jon Costas and Porter United Methodist Church pastor G. Thomas Jones. Tim Knauff, pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, led readings from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and Porter County Sheriff David Lain led a singing of “God Bless America” and Rev. Dave Kovalow of the First Christian Church led the opening song, “On My Honor."