"Just kill me!"
"Put one in my brain!"
He was injected with morphine and helicoptered to his base. He was then flown to Germany, where he was too sedated to grasp what had happened. By the time he arrived at Bethesda (Md.) Naval Hospital three days later, he had changed his mind. He wanted to live again.
Alison visited and expected to cry. Then she saw his face and realized: Her kid brother would be O.K. His mother and sister went to his first physical-therapy session, in July 2010. Rob said he would walk into a Marine Corps ball in November. Carol thought, You're just setting yourself up to fail, but she kept her doubts to herself. That November, her son, by then fitted with prostheses, walked into three Marine Corps balls—in Washington; Roanoke, Va.; and Las Vegas. Soon after, he started rowing, first for the workout, then because "it was a sport I thought I could compete in."
In public, together or apart, Rob and Oksana are objects of fascination for the full-bodied. Strangers are baffled by Oksana's beauty, as though her face, too, should be deformed. They often stare.
And yet, they don't really see her.
She was shopping at a Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store recently when a man walked up to her and said, "I just want to say, you just made my day. And I want to say thank you." He tried to slip her $20. She was uncomfortable. She made his day? How? By shopping?
"I've gotten a lot of people saying. 'That is awesome. You're so brave,'" Oksana says. "I hate when people say brave. I'm not brave. I'm just living my life. Why is that brave?"
She smiles and says, "Just because I have badass legs ... that could probably kill you...."