BY CARMEN SIERING
Greg Stube is the first to admit that the injuries he suffered during Operation Medusa in Afghanistan were life altering. When an IED blew up his vehicle, a jagged 1-pound piece of shrapnel penetrated Stube’s leg and traveled through his pelvis and abdomen. He suffered third-degree burns on one-third of his body, lost a large portion of his intestines, and his right leg had to be reattached below the knee. He spent a year and a half in the hospital.
“One minute I was a very capable human being,” Stube says. “Then I was blown up and burned and couldn’t take care of myself, much less anyone else. I had to make it make sense. I had to justify why I had put myself in that position or spend the rest of my life depressed and feeling like it wasn’t worth it.”
Stube, 46, attended the University of Tennessee at Martin after high school and participated in ROTC. It didn’t take long to see the military was where he belonged. He joined the Army in 1988. “After I joined, I never wanted to do anything else,” he says.
In 1992, Stube was selected for Special Forces medical training and served as a medical sergeant in war zones such as Bosnia and Kosovo. In 2001, he began a four-year teaching stint at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
“After 9/11, it was decided we needed a lot more Green Berets,” he says. “It killed me to tell my students what they needed to do and know they would be doing it, and I would be here, at home.” As soon as he could, he joined them. That’s how he found himself on that disastrous hilltop in Afghanistan in 2006.
When he discovered he was going to be medically retired upon recovery, Stube asked his commanding officer what it would take to stay in uniform. “He said someone at CNN wanted me to do an interview, and if I could do live television without embarrassing anyone, then I could go into public relations,” Stube says with a grin. He was soon an official spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command, a position he held until he retired in 2011.
The PR work led to a television program, Coming Home with Greg Stube, on NBC Sports, and to speaking engagements around the country. After hearing him give a talk in Reno, Nevada, Bloomington businessman Jack Craig contacted Stube about speaking to the kids at Craig Family Camp, located just south of Bloomington. Stube spoke at the camp, captivating the kids and finding in Craig someone who shared his vision. Craig is part owner of Wagon Wheel Country Market & Deli on South Walnut, where Stube now handles sales and marketing.
Beyond working together, the two have created a youth development program called Ready for Life!, teaching young people skills such as leadership, planning, and accountability. Stube sees Ready for Life! as a way to use all he learned as a Green Beret, a way to make sense of his injuries, and a way to contribute to the community he and his 10-year-old son, Greg Jr., now call home.
“I’m a guy who spent my whole adult life in dangerous places — struggling, fighting, and dying for freedom,” he says. “What makes it worthwhile? America itself. And the culmination of that is a place like Bloomington and southern Indiana and what they offer me. It’s almost a storybook ending for a soldier — a place that makes their vision of how great America is come true. It’s the best example of a place he was willing to die for.”