In June 2008, Marine Corporal Anthony Villarreal was driving back from a mission in Afghanistan when his truck hit a roadside bomb.
Anthony suffered third-degree burns over most of his body. His right arm and the fingers on his left hand had to be amputated.
Anthony was 22 at the time, and newlywed to Jessica who was just 21.
When the couple sat down for StoryCorps, Anthony remembered the moments just after the explosion.
Anthony and Jessica are now attending college together.
Click here for the transcript.
Jessica Villarreal (JV): I remember when I first saw you. The doctors wanted me to identify you, like you had died or something. You were covered in bandages and I could only see your eyes and your lips. And then they showed me the extent of the burn, how it went straight to the bone. They told me we can’t salvage the tissue so I had to sign papers saying that it was okay for them to amputate.
AV: When I woke up from that three month drug-induced coma, having to learn everything that a baby has to learn, I didn’t even recognize myself. After the first time I saw myself in the mirror, that’s when I just broke down. I literally thought that my life was over. I kept thinking, What was I going to do? How am I going to get a job?
What did you think about?
JV: I just knew that you needed me and I was going to be there. Were you ever scared that I’d leave you?
AV: Yeah, I mean it’s kind of hard not to think about that. Because a lot of people, they don’t want to be seen with someone that was ugly. What was it like 70-plus surgeries, skin grafts? I really didn’t want to leave the house. I just thought to myself, Man, people don’t know how to ask questions. They just want to stare and point. I’m just glad that you’re there to help me.
JV: The crazy thing is I’m still more self-conscious about what I look like than you are. But I have grown so much over the past five years. I didn’t ever think that I’d be as strong as I am today and most of it is from you. I can’t imagine you not being in my life.
AV: We’ve been through so much in so little time. There shouldn’t be anything that could tear us apart besides death itself.