True Grit

This veteran is more than a match for his next challenge: college.

When Marine veteran Todd Love was recently asked to describe himself in three words, he chose stubborn, bold and resourceful. He was spot on, for you could scour 100 dictionaries and not find three more appropriate adjectives to explain the grit that Love has shown since October 25, 2010, the day he stepped on a roadside bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan. The blast took both legs at the waist and most of his left arm. He was 20 years old.

“Here I am, everyone’s calling me some sort of hero,” Love says. “The truth is I didn’t do anything. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the guys who picked me up—the British helicopter pilots, the doctors who operated on me, they’re the heroes. What my story really is is snippets of everybody else’s story.”

Love spent two years recuperating from his injuries at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, outside Washington, D.C., then resumed feeding his appetite for adrenaline. He skied. He surfed. He even skydived. In the fall of 2016, Love took a risk of a different kind: He enrolled at Drew.

The son and grandson of Marines, Love says he wasn’t ready for college at 18, but now, at 27, he’s gung-ho. These days, he says, he prefers to get his adrenaline kicks “through the intellectual realm rather than the physical realm.” He holds a part-time job, and five days a week he drives himself to campus in a van outfitted with hand controls for the gas and brake and what he calls a “spinny knob” for a steering wheel.

For Love, a Chinese studies major, one of the joys of his Drew experience has been meeting classmates from far-flung points across the globe—from Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, Pakistan, India. “I love how diverse the community is,” he says. “I always feel like when you meet someone and get to know them, you always learn something about yourself in the process.”

So far, Love’s favorite class has been Neuroscience 101; he finds it “just so fascinating how we—our brains —work, and even more fascinating how, oftentimes, we don’t work.” Biology professor Roger Knowles, who teaches the class, has learned valuable lessons from Love as well. “Whenever I felt maybe work has been a little tough and overwhelming, I’d think about Todd, and I was able to get up the gumption to work a little harder.”

Indeed, since that awful day in Afghanistan seven years ago, Love has shown those around him what’s possible when you’re stubborn, bold and resourceful. He’s marshaling all those traits as he strives toward his next goal: to accept his diploma alongside fellow Drew graduates of the Class of 2021.

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