Hero from the Heart of Virginia: Sgt. Kareem Francis
Lynchburg, VA - Earlier this year, we learned the tragic news that a Lynchburg man had been shot multiple times while serving in Afghanistan back in May.
Sergeant Kareem Francis is undergoing therapy in Maryland, but made a quick trip home for Thanksgiving.
The 29-year-old from Lynchburg is full of life.
The 2003 graduate is known in the area for running track and playing football for Heritage High School.
All may seem well at first glance, but Francis's life changed forever in May.
He was five months into his second tour in Afghanistan.
"I told my guys, 'I told them look out for this area, and then sure enough, then all you heard was gun fire," said Francis. "That's when I went straight, straight to the ground."
He was shot twice.
"One went in and out and the other went in and stayed," he said.
One of those bullets struck his lumbar spine.
And just like that, doctors said Francis was paralyzed from the waist down.
"It's just something that happened and something I have to cope with," Francis said. "It's all for the good I guess. God makes no mistakes. Everything happens for a reason, I think he just put me in this place like 'Ok, you've got the hard test now.' What are you going to do with it. I think I'm solving his Rubik's cube pretty good."
Solving it is an understatement.
In just six months, he's proven the power of the mind.
"I'm standing up on it, I walking with a brace on my right leg," he adds.
He has regained full feeling in his left leg, but his right leg is half way there. He says from the knee down he doesn't have any feeling.
And it hasn't gone unnoticed.
Even the President paid him a visit.
Kareem credits his fast healing to four people.
His fiancee who he says is very special to him.
Then there are his parents.
"My mom and Dad, they're both my heroes," he said. "They push me to do everything, and everything, and everything."
Then there's his mentor, his stepbrother, who is paralyzed too.
His step brother was injured in a car accident and has been one of the driving inspirations for Francis.
"That bond of being, almost the same injury and just trying to cope with everyday situations," Francis explains.
Francis is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
He says as soon as he can, he plans to pay it forward.
"Once I'm back on my feet, I'll try to give back to what everybody's been giving me, but I got to get there first, I got to get back up on my feet," Francis said.
Francis will make another trip home for Christmas.
He says he has no regrets about what happened saying it's all part of the journey.
He says in the future, he plans to wed his fiancee, who he calls the woman of his dreams, and would like to work in Government in some capacity.