REVERE, Mass. - Retired U.S. Navy Seal Robert O'Neill traveled to the Boston area from Montana to spread his message of encouragement and appreciation to those putting their lives on the line for our country.
"The further I get away from combat, the more real it gets," O'Neill said. "It's very real and I can see it whenever I want."
Eight years have passed since the raid that took out 9/11 terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden. The retired U.S. Navy Seal who fired the kill shots remembers it like it was yesterday and is sharing his experience to let fellow American warriors know they are not alone.
"You will get out of the bubble," O'Neill said. "There is life after the military, the Army, the Navy."
O'Neill, whose wife is originally from the South Shore, traveled to the Boston area this weekend to attend the ninth annual Boston Wounded Vet Motorcycle Ride from Revere to Malden.
"Nothing is as bad as you think it is," he said. "If you're having a bad day, just call a friend. If you're having a good day, call a friend."
O'Neill's presence and message made a visible impact on the more than 5,000 people in attendance.
"The guy is a legend," said wounded veteran Jack Williams, who added that O'Neill is empowering to those whose lives have been forever changed by war.
"I used to think about other guys getting wounded but didn't think it would ever happen to me."
Williams lost both his legs and an arm during an explosion while serving in Afghanistan.
"I remember looking up in the clouds," he recollected. "I was trying to find the most beautiful thing around me, and I could see the tree above me. My whole life started flashing before my eyes."
He says the emotional and physical warfare he's faced in his life back home has come with new challenges. Williams says he hopes events like this weekend's and stories of perseverance will get through to those in the thick of it.
"If you're struggling, you got to keep pushing forward," he said. "You're going up a hill for a while and after that you're going downhill, and everything is a beautiful again."
All proceeds from the event benefit selected wounded veterans from New England and charities of their choice.
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