by Gabe Cohen
Scott Smiley thought his life was over when a carbomb in Mosul, Iraq took his eyesight, but 10 years after fate took his vision he's competing in his first IRONMAN.
In April 2005, Lt. Smiley was assigned the mission to find a car bomb in the city. He'll never forget the driver he spotted that day.
"I just knew something was wrong," Smiley recalls.
He cornered a driver that afternoon. When the man behind the wheel pulled his foot off the break Smiley fired two warning shots in front of his car. Then the man detonated the explosives in his vehicle, sending shrapnel into Smiley's eyes, blinding him for the rest of his life.
Almost two weeks later, Smiley awoke from a coma a bitter man.
"Feeling I was going to be a hero for my family, a hero for America, and now I'm just a broken, half-paralyzed soldier," he said. "That fear consumed me."
Darkness consumed him, but family and faith brought him back. He and his wife spent months rebuilding his strength and conviction. She would sit at his bedside and read bible verses. Eventually Smiley began to believe he could have a real life again.
In 2006, Smiley reenlisted and became the first blind soldier ever to serve in the United States Army.
A year later, he and his wife brought their first son into the world. Now they have three.
"They're just go go go," Tiffany Smiley, Scott's wife, said. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
Smiley is a family man, but the past decade has also been filled with adventures. He's climbed mountains, sky dived, surfed and more.
"I've been able to do a lot of things in life I didn't think I'd be able to do because of my blindness," Smiley said. "But what I came to the conclusion of is yes I still can do them I just may have to do them a little differently.
But none of those accomplishments quite compare to his next challenge.
Smiley has trained relentlessly for a year. Hundreds of hours in the pool and on the road. And this Sunday he'll put his body to the test as he competes in his first IRONMAN.
"I just need to be mentally strong," Smiley said.
On race day he'll be tethered to his brother-in-law Andy who conquered the race three years ago. They'll ride a tandem bike and Andy will tap him to guide him during the swim.
"It's not about eyesight," Smiley said. "We can do things in which we never thought we could."
And he won't need sight when he gets to the finish line. He'll still here the six sweet words that remind him why he's here.
'Scott Smiley, you are an IRONMAN.'