Aberdeen — These days Jeff Kessler thinks of himself as a father and husband, not a veteran.
He works at Aberdeen Proving Ground as a quality assurance technician and he and his wife Morgan are raising a rambunctious family of four children, which means lots of traveling to practices and games for various sports and activities.
In his own free time he likes to lift weights and hunt deer with his compound bow.
It’s been 10 years since Kessler, then a 23-year-old corporal in the United States Marines, was wounded on his third tour in Afghanistan. Kessler and a buddy were patrolling an area inside Helmand Province. Kessler kicked in a door that had been armed with explosives.
The force of the blast damaged his legs so badly that both had to be amputated. He also suffered damage to his right hand and left arm. Practically newlyweds at that time, Morgan told the Cecil Whig in 2011 that she was keeping it in perspective.
“We’re thankful he’s still alive. We are so blessed,” she said. “His injuries are just another bump in the road we have to get through.”
In the ensuing years the Kesslers have been helped by various organizations including Homes For Our Troops, which built a 2,700-square foot ranch home for them with more than 150 special features designed to help Jeff such as wider doorways, wood or tile floors and handicap accessibility throughout. They moved into that Rising Sun area home in 2014.
He’s also taken advantage of events such as Dream Team Prosthetics Camp in Oklahoma.
“He learned things there that he never knew,” Morgan said. “He learned about things like adjusting his legs.”
Jeff quickly learned what all the numbers and settings mean.
“If I make the foot too tight the computer in the leg won’t respond properly,” he explained.
He even learned he can drive without hand controls.
“I’m working on that now,” he said.
Unless you knew his story you probably might not realize Kessler is walking on high-tech legs. He enters the room with a smooth gait and a confident smile. Those legs make it possible.
“The computer (in the leg) knows when I am sitting or standing,” Kessler said. “They respond if I’m stepping off a curb or if I’m going down a hill it responds.”
That weight lifting is an important part of his well-being, he said.
“My main goal is to stay in shape. The better I can walk and take care of the kids and the things I need to do the better it is,” he said.
He doesn’t see too much of the fellow Marines he served with in Afghanistan and he stays away from any conversation about the US withdrawal from that country.
For now he said life is “pretty good” and he likes it that way.