During the seventh general session of the 85th National FFA Convention and Expo, Josh Bleill addressed thousands of FFA members to share a story of emotion and encouragement.
Bleill was a United States Marine who had suffered an accident during his tour in Iraq. He had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2002. His father and grandfather had served in the military before him and after 9/11, he knew it was his duty to enlist. On October 15, 2006, Bleill lost both of his legs when an IED exploded under his Humvee in Fallujah, Iraq.
Bleill went through two years of rehabilitation. “I hid from the world. I missed out on a lot of great opportunities because I was scared,” he said of his challenges during rehab.
He overcame hardships and learned to walk with two prosthetic legs. At first, he struggled through negativity and failures. But after receiving support from family, friends and neighbors, he was able to turn his situation into a positive one. He learned to appreciate every second of life and be a role model for others.
After Bleill’s heart-touching story of tragedy and triumph, his message rang out loud and clear in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. “When you want to grow, you have to grow your vision. It’s about giving. You have to GROW your voice.”
The FFA members gave an overwhelming show of support and respect throughout his address. When Bleill had concluded, the crowd erupted in energy and applause. Bleill received a standing ovation and the admiration didn’t stop there. As students left the fieldhouse, they were still astonished by the message Bliell delivered.
After watching the address, Michigan FFA State Officer commented, “He was the most humble marine I have ever seen. The only person I have ever witnessed put their head down while thousands of people are clapping for them. God bless the USA and all who serve.”
Bliell was overjoyed at the reaction of the audience. He was pleased to see that the members were so attentive and that they really listened to his words and took them to heart. Being a native of Indianapolis, Josh Bleill had nothing but praises for the FFA in return. He said, “With FFA, we know we are getting a good group of people coming into our town.”
“He was an amazing keynote speaker. He made me think of my life from a completely different perspective,” said FFA member Carter Westra.
Bleill’s story was an inspiration to all the members who were able to hear him. If you missed his address, check it out http://www.ihigh.com/ffa/broadcast_251189.html?silverlight=1.
Emily Walker is a senior at Michigan State University majoring in environmental studies and agriscience communications. This year, she’s reporting on the convention and expo as part of the National FFA Convention & Expo Newsroom Crew.