By Marguerite Cleveland
Mike Day is an American hero. His tale is like a Hollywood movie, almost unbelievable but all too true for the man who survived it. On April 6, 2007, he entered a room where four terrorists ambushed him. He was shot a total of 27 times but was able to take out the enemy and rescue six women and children. Day was able to walk to the helicopter that awaited the team. It took him two years to recover from his physical injuries, but the mental scars of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury remain with him to this day.
Day served a total of 21 years in the military, deploying multiple times. In addition to a chest full of medals and ribbons, he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy’s second highest award after the Medal of Honor. Today he works as a motivational speaker and has had a great impact working as a Wounded Warrior Advocate for wounded Special Operations Warriors. His book, “Perfectly Wounded: A Memoir About What Happens After a Miracle,” was published in June 2020 and tells his story about surviving being shot 27 times while deployed to Iraq.
Q. Why did you decide to share your story in a book? A. I decided to share my story with you because I had seen my story in so many others. We have all suffered or will suffer trauma, and it will continually happen until we leave this place. I have personally learned how to deal with my trauma through a combination of observing others manage theirs, research and dumb luck. I speak to the ideas and theories in the book that have been most beneficial to me as an example of what may work for others.
Q. How did you develop the resilience to survive not only being shot 27 times but the arduous recovery process? A. My life has been like many others lives, in that, figure it out or not, sink or swim, win or lose and champion or victim. I had been forced to believe that no one was coming to help me. I learned that no matter what happened, I would eventually figure things out. Luckily, I also learned that the right people show up at the right time. For me it has been the perfect combination of people and me that got me through.
Q. One of the many hats you wear is that of public speaker on resilience and overcoming adversity. What is in your adversity toolkit? A. My toolkit is continuously being put together. My tendency is to move too fast and miss what is being said. When I do slow down, shut my mouth and listen to smarter people than me, I learn and build my toolkit. I seek out these people. I try things that meet the commonsense bar. I have found that it’s not that difficult to build some of the tools in the toolkit and more so in other tools. One of the tools is being healthy. I can control this mostly. I control what I consume; what media, food, ideas, theology and so on. I control my physiological and psychological health. Relationships are another big part of the toolkit. I have many acquaintances and few friends. Although, some acquaintances are great tools for resiliency, they are not as essential as a friend. My friends will always take my call, respond to a text, come move my stuff on short notice, or respond very quickly to see if I am alright or need something. I do the same for them. I know they are coming, and that is huge.
Q. Physical fitness and training is still an important part of your life. Can you share with our readers how important outdoor activities are to you? A. I know what my wants and needs are. I want to continue to have fun. Fun for me is to be having an adventure. I want to be dropping in on a perfect wave in the tropics, climbing some mountain, crossing the Grand Canyon, riding my bike across America, and so much more ... ‘til I break it. The practice for all these fun things is training. I run, swim, ride, lift and play ... to practice/train to be able to do the things I call fun. This has always been part of me, until it was taken away from me. I have been injured/traumatized just like so many others who have had the ability to have fun taken away. Some lose a limb, job, friend, family member or whatever. The loss can take your fun. My loss was a physiological loss of gut flora that caused symptoms of bad depression. The fix was a lot easier than you can imagine.
Despite his injuries, Day recovered to the point his new mission was to raise awareness of traumatic brain injuries. He trained and competed in a 70.3-mile half Ironman race and raised over $88,075 for the Brain Treatment Foundation, a nonprofit division of Carrick Brain Centers. He has continued to maintain a high level of physical fitness.