Corwyn Collier Sr, a veteran of the Iraq war, rolled over a roadside bomb on May 23, 2009– now, three and a half years later, he is about to get his master’s degree and become a high school teacher.

Collier went to Iraq as a sergeant, but suffered severe injuries not long after his deployment. When Collier’s truck rolled over the bomb, he was the only one injured– his right leg and right hand were mangled. He lost the fibula in his lower leg and four fingers off his hand, and he was severely burned. Losing blood and bleeding out, Collier thought of his family and prayed to see his wife and sons again.

Recovery was difficult for Collier, suffering from depression in the hospital. However, his survival instincts kicked in, and Collier determined that he wanted to do something positive with his life. Inspired by his wife, an elementary school teacher, Collier decided he wanted to work with kids. Now, he is eager to inspire students to overcome their own situation the way he overcame his battlefield injury.

Earlier this month, Collier spoke to the student body at Spring Hill during a Veterans Day program. “I told them [not to] let their current situation dictate their future,” he said. “Sometimes, things look bad, but they will get better. If you have a dream or you have a goal, keep pushing for it.” He told the students that along their journey, “there will be plenty of ups and downs. I tell them everything is not always going to be the way you want it to be, but I promise you, if you keep working and you keep pushing, things will be a lot better in the end.”

As for Collier’s goals? After he graduates in December with his Master’s degree, he hopes to find a job as a teacher. He also wants to coach track, in spite of his inability to run, and dreams of competing with the U.S. Paralympic Team as a power lifter in 2016.

“I have a different perspective on life,” said Collier, looking back on how his battlefield injury has made him a better man. “At first, I took a lot of stuff for granted. … After I was injured, it made me look back and reflect on my life.

“I can lose everything just like that. … To me, I am just thankful to wake up in the morning most days.”