TAMPA, Fla. - After 12 years in the Navy, just a teenager when he enlisted, David Nicholson left the military.
Decades later, at 55 years old, he decided to return to war, but this time as a military contractor for Lockheed Martin.
"I saw too many people getting killed in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.
With his background as an aircraft mechanic, Nicholson thought he could make a difference. For eight months, he dodged rocket and mortar attacks, until he says his luck ran out on April 28, 2011.
"When I woke up, I realized my legs were gone, but I was alive," he remembered.
Now a bi-lateral amputee, Nicholson wanted to walk again, but he wanted to do a whole lot more.
"He does challenge you, but that's good," said Vern Swanson of Westcoast Brace & Limb. "That's my job. That's why I'm here."
Swanson fitted Nicholson with the latest in prosthetic technology -- titanium and carbon fiber legs that know his moves before he does.
"There's nothing out there you can't do with this leg," Nicholson said.
The prosthetics are synchronized with a computer, filled with Nicholson's unique anatomical information, and he has a remote control so he can adapt the hydraulics in his legs for up to five different activities at a time.
"I would say in the last four to six weeks, he's really just taken off," explained Nicholson's physical therapist, James Hughes. "All that hard work he's been doing, it's starting to pay off."
Recently, Nicholson rode a horse. Soon, he expects to run again.
Someday, if his doctor approves it, he wants to return to Afghanistan to finish the work he started.
"I think that's priceless," he said. "The price I paid, losing two legs, was a small token compared with all the good that I did."
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