WOUNDED IRAQ VETERAN RISES TO BE A HERO - MAPLE HEIGHTS -- Love is a powerful motivator. For 35-year-old Corwyn Collier of Stow, the love and support of his wife not only motivated him to become a teacher; it also helped save his life.
LET ME LIVE TO SEE MY FAMILY
On May 23, 2009 Collier survived an IED (improvised explosive device) bomb attack while serving as a military police officer in Iraq.
The blast completely mangled Collier’s right hand and severed an artery in his right leg. The trauma and blood loss was so severe Collier’s heart stopped.
He managed to get out a simple prayer before losing consciousness.
“God, please let me get home to my wife and please let me get home to see my sons grow up,” recalled Collier. “I don’t care what happens to me physically. Let me live to see my family.”
Back in the United States, Collier's wife Iisha, who was caring for their two sons and pursuing a graduate degree in education at the time, received a call informing her she would be flown to Germany to see her husband before he dies.
“In my heart I knew he was still alive,” says the now mother of three. “I was head strong that ‘he’s not dead. He’s not dying.’ I was glad I didn’t believe what they were saying.”
Collier did make an abrupt trip that week. It wasn’t to Germany to say goodbye to her husband, it was to the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland to help him recover.
YOU HAVE TO BE THE MAN YOU USED TO BE
The rehabilitation took nine months, thirty surgeries, and multiple sessions to help the former track standout learn how to care for himself and walk again.
Collier admits the process took a toll on him emotionally. So much so he told his wife he had lost the will to live.
“I’m crying hysterically because I’m thinking I’m never going to walk again. The next thing you know it felt like God came down and touched me,” says Collier. “But it was actually my wife slapping me in the back of the head.”
“I just went off,” says Iisha Collier.
Believing he had a story to share, the young wife told her husband, “you have to be the man you used to be. You’re someone’s father. You can’t be down on yourself. You have to motivate yourself to want to have a piece of life."
She went on to challenge her husband to push through his circumstances so he could use his story to inspire others.
Collier answered the challenge. He recovered, became a professional body builder, and followed his wife into the field of education. The Maple Heights graduate landed a job at his Alma mater.
MORE THAN A TEACHER
“He’s an American history teacher so what better person than actually an American vet to teach American history,” says Maple Heights High School Principal Shay Price. “The kids love him. He demonstrates opportunity to them.”
“His dedication is there,” says Maple Heights Junior Tia Harris. “He’s showing us that he wants us to be somebody; that we can be somebody.”
“I just look up to what he’s done,” says sophomore Dorien Strong. “He’s like a hero to me.”
RIDE OR DIE CAVS FAN
Collier’s journey in the military and impact in the classroom led the Cleveland Cavaliers organization to surprise the Purple Heart veteran with the 2017 EveryFAN award.
The recognition celebrates a Cavs fan who demonstrates a strong work ethic, high moral values, community pride, Cavaliers pride, and everyday heroism.
Again, his wife was the driving force behind it all. She nominated him for the award.
“He was on his deathbed asking me the (Cavs) score,” says the 32-year-old. “For him to be doing that he has to be a ride or die Cavs fan.”
The EveryFan award gave the Colliers the opportunity to experience a Cavaliers game as a VIP. The now retired army veteran was recognized on court during halftime and received free gas for a year courtesy of Speedway.
Like always Collier's wife was right by his side.
“She’s my biggest fan,” says Collier. “She spent nine months in the hospital with me, watch me go through everything, and watch me get to this point. I love her to death. She is my rock.”
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