A Veteran's Miraculous Recovery

Justin ConstantineOnly six weeks after Justin Constantine left his job as a lawyer and arrived in Iraq, the Marine reservist was shot in the face. It was a sniper attack. Stopping to inspect an Iraqi police station that had been shot out the night before, he cautiously exited a vehicle and a bullet entered behind his left ear, and exited through his mouth, ripping through his face and jaws. He should have died, except Navy Corpsman George Grant rushed over and gave Constantine an emergency tracheotomy – right in the midst of the sniper fire.

Miraculously, the bullet missed his brain and spinal cord, but it ripped apart his face, and doctors worried that he might not make it. In the hospital in 2006, Constantine had multiple surgeries, including one in which surgeons removed bone from his thigh to rebuild his jaw. His mother and girlfriend (and now wife) Dahlia were careful to cover reflective surfaces so that he couldn't see what he looked like. But one day Constantine, 37, caught sight of his reflection in a window. He was shocked -- and saddened. "Even now, after all those surgeries and almost seven years in time, I still really wish I looked the way I used to," he says. "I don't know if that will ever completely go away."

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More surgeries followed, with seven months' recuperation at home, attached to a feeding tube, Dahlia always by his side. He was left with slurred speech, limited vision in one eye and post traumatic stress disorder, which meant poor concentration and painful flashbacks. While he knew that he couldn't return to his previous job as a litigator, he still wanted to work. Through his contacts, Constantine landed a desk job at the U.S. Department of Justice, in the appellate section of the Office of Immigration Litigation. "I was happy to know I could still do" legal work, says Constantine, who now works for the FBI's counterterrorism group.

But perhaps his most gratifying job is one he created for himself. In recent years, he started speaking at schools about his traumatic experience -- his near death from the sniper attack, the years of painful recovery. In 2011, the Wounded Warrior Project presented him with its annual George C. Lang Courage Award. Despite his speech impediment, he has become a much-admired motivational speaker, giving talks two or three times a week about overcoming adversity and giving to others. "I doubt I'll ever be in a courtroom again, but this is just as good," he says. "I want to show people, especially wounded veterans, that even though we may look different, and it can be very difficult to recover from these complex injuries we all have, we can still contribute to society in a big way." He adds, "We all have obstacles, but we're also able to overcome them when we put our minds to it."

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God Bless you and your family. Semper Fi.I wish this man would look into the University of Iowa,I used to work there,and they did plenty of facial reconstructions, too many for me to tell, and this was in the 70's, it could only be better now. One man that comes to mind, blew his whole face off with a gun, they rebuild hid face perfectly, but he had artifical eyes.Justin if you read this, there is no harm in checking it out. Good luck.

March 30 2013 at 11:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 29 2013 at 3:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

god bless you semper fi

March 29 2013 at 3:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
JoJo Morales

This man is a hero by any and all definitions.

Your tenacity and perserverance are truly inspiring. Never give up!

March 29 2013 at 3:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Gordon Goede

Thank you for your service to our country. May you and your wife have a long lives together!

March 29 2013 at 2:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

God bless he and his wife.

March 29 2013 at 1:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Sherri M

Thank you for your service Sir. Semper Fi. There are all kinds of courage, and you exemplify the very best.

March 29 2013 at 12:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

All I can say is thank you to this brave man and God bless to those who Love him.

March 28 2013 at 11:21 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I do not know for sure if I could expect that reaction from my wife, much less a girlfriend. Sombody or Both are special people here.

March 28 2013 at 10:35 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

He sounds like a fine man and his girlfriend that became his wife is obviously a special person...God Bless dude and thanks

March 28 2013 at 10:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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