Over the next week-and-a-half KTAR will be introducing and profiling the Grand Marshals for this year's Veterans Day Parade in Phoenix.
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- After being wounded twice in Iraq and nearly losing his life, one Valley veteran is now on a different mission to serve his brothers-in-arms.
In retired Sgt. 1st Class Brian Mancini's home office in Surprise, there are dozens of reminders of the nearly 13 years he spent serving the nation.
His Army camouflage uniform is hanging up, along with his two purple hearts. A map shows the exact location of where he was hurt. Next to them is a poem painted on the only blue wall in the office.
Don't you dare pity me for I live pity free.
I would do it all over again If need be, for this great nation tis of thee.
I stand tall and proud so don't you dare pity me, for I live and will die pity free.
No matter how mangled my body it may be, the scars and pain are simple reminders you see, the sacrifices made for the land of the free.
There are many more who have given more than me,
So I honor them by living pity free.
I truly have lived better living pity free.
So I have one request, can you do it for me?
Please don't you dare pity me, for I live proud
and pity free.
Mancini, 34, wrote the poem a few months after he nearly died while on patrol in Iraq.
"In July 2007, I got hit by a roadside bomb. I remember not being able to breathe," Mancini recalled.
His teeth were blown out of his mouth, while a piece of his sunglasses got lodged in his eye socket. He was choking on his own blood before he lost consciousness.
Mancini's heart stopped twice that day.
He remembers waking up at the combat support hospital and thinking, "Thank God."
But the next four years would be the most difficult of his life.
"I ended up losing my right eye and had a lot of my forehead replaced. It's all titanium mesh," said Mancini.
He had to learn how to walk and talk again. He had severe nerve damage and many sleepless nights.
His wife also left.
At one point, the stress became too much.
"I contemplated suicide, like many veterans do. And in that moment, I just cried out in the midst of having a .45 in my hand that was locked and loaded and ready to go," said Mancini.
Then, in the darkest of moments, Mancini found a reason to live.
"I got an overwhelming sense of purpose that God was going to use all of this, and I stepped out and started a non-profit," said Mancini.
The Honor House is an organization that Mancini has been working on opening for roughly two years. It's a program that transitions wounded vets from the battlefield back to the homefront.
"It's a proactive approach on treating some of the issues that we've seen, [by] just providing them with some services and alternatives that they may have not been introduced to," Mancini explained.
So far, he has two rooms dedicated to the cause, which will serve as transitional homes for veterans who don't yet have a place to live.
While at Honor House, they'll be introduced to all types of recovery services, both mental and physical. The program is slated to start at the beginning of 2014.
Mancini said it's a different way of treating fellow veterans and not just prescribing them pills to mask their pain and anger.
It's his way of continuing to serve the country and teaching others to live pity-free.
Veterans Day Grand Marshals
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