From Iraq to Rolling Meadows: A soldier's tale
Bryan Anderson's inspiring book, "No Turning Back," hits stores today
Live, love, thrive. These are the three words Bryan Anderson chooses to live by every day.
Whether that means snowboarding, acting in an award-winning film, playing in a rock band or traveling the country, Anderson doesn't say no to any experience, despite losing both legs and most of his left arm to a roadside bomb in Iraq six years ago.
Now the Army veteran can add writing a biography to his expanding list of adventures. Anderson's book, "No Turning Back," hits stores today. It details his life and the lessons he's learned since suffering those devastating injuries in 2005.
"People kept telling me I should write a book," said the Rolling Meadows resident, who never saw himself as an author until he started speaking publicly and realized he had a story to tell.
His story details enlisting with the Army and receiving a deployment date of Sept. 11, 2001, serving two tours in Iraq as a sergeant in the military police, driving over a roadside bomb in his Humvee in October 2005 and recovering for 13 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was one of the few triple amputees to survive.
Opening on the day he almost died, Anderson's book spends less time recounting how he was injured than it does on his life since and how he has learned to overcome obstacles.
"I want to inspire other people to start living their lives," said Anderson, who is certainly living his. From skateboarding to meeting celebrities to working with politicians, Anderson said what happened to him isn't a tragedy -- it's just one chapter of his life.
"Just because bad things happen or the world feels like it's crashing down, that doesn't mean it's not going to get better," Anderson said. "Everything is how you perceive it."
Writing the book was a learning process, Anderson said, but it helped to have author David Mack working with him.
Anderson said it was important to him to be honest in the book about the explosion, thoughts of dying, sex and everything in between.
"If you're not honest, you're just fake," he said. "I think people respect you a little more if you tell them exactly how it is."
The forward to "No Turning Back" is written by actor Gary Sinise, best known for playing Lt. Dan in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump" and his later work for veterans with his Lt. Dan Band.
Anderson fell into meeting Sinise -- literally -- by tripping into the actor while he was still learning to walk on prosthetic legs at Walter Reed. Anderson reached forward and landed on Sinise, who said of Anderson, "It's the real Lt. Dan!"
Anderson assured Sinise, a fellow Chicago-area native, that he would always be Lt. Dan, and the two have kept in touch ever since.
Anderson later worked with Sinise to get a bill passed through Congress for a disabled veterans memorial in Washington, D.C., guest-starred in an episode of "CSI: New York" with the actor and even played drums with the Lt. Dan Band this fall.
Life in the spotlight has agreed with Anderson, who said his passion now is to become an actor. He is well on his way, with playing guest spots on "All My Children," working with James Gandolfini in the HBO documentary "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq" and having a small role with Mickey Rourke in the film "The Wrestler."
While the busy schedule can get tiring, Anderson isn't slowing down anytime soon. He also works as a spokesman for Quantum Rehab and USA Cares, and he is preparing to hit the road to promote his book. That starts today when he travels to New York and will appear via satellite on local news broadcasts across the country.
He returns Friday to the Chicago area to sign copies of his book at 6:30 p.m. at the Book Stall in Winnetka.
Anderson is set to make his television-hosting debut on the program "Reporting for Service with Bryan Anderson," which will air at 9 p.m. Nov. 11 on WTTW-Channel 11. The program will highlight volunteer projects around Chicago.
"When I came home, Chicago embraced me," Anderson said. "Now that I'm good, it's my turn to give back and showcase hidden heroes."