With the Cavs trailing 3 games to 0 in the NBA finals, you could say they are “fighting to stay alive” in a must win game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Corwyn Collier literally knows what it means to fight for survival.
On May 23rd, 2009, Corwyn was in Iraq serving as a Military Police guard in the Army National Guard. Collier was traveling in a four-truck convoy. Each vehicle had a driver, gunner in the back and team leader – Collier – in the passenger seat.
In an instant, his life changed forever…
An IED, Improvised Explosive Device, ripped through his vehicle. The blast was so powerful that all four trucks carrying the 12-man squad were lifted into the air.
At first Collier said he was a little dazed until he realized what was going on. He did his best to keep the other guys calm. Everyone worked on calling radio headquarters to get the helicopter to rescue them.
Collier talks matter-of-factly about his life-changing experience. When he says “I took the whole blast by myself,” he’s not bragging; it’s almost more of a ‘it happened, you move on’ shrug.
What he remembers about the moment is being on the phone with his middle son.
“In the back of my mind, my son had just turned 2 years old” he said. “His birthday is May 18. So I had just talked to him the night before. … I was thinking I didn’t want my sons to grow up without a father, and I didn’t want my wife to go through that.”
“They had to pull me out of my vehicle – that was the most painful of the whole thing – put me in another vehicle, and drove out of the city where a helicopter could land. They flew me to a casualty point in Iraq to stabilize me.
“That’s when my heart stopped beating. I had severed an artery in my leg, and I was bleeding out. Before they can get me, they had a firefight with the guys who realized they didn’t kill us. Fortunately, the adrenaline prevented me from feeling too much pain.”
He managed to get out a simple prayer before losing consciousness. “God, please let me get home to my wife and please let me get home to see my sons grow up,” recalled Collier. “I don’t care what happens to me physically. Let me live to see my family.”
“They called my wife and said ‘he’s not going to make it. We’re going to stabilize him enough to get him to (an Army hospital in) Germany, so you can go and see him one more time before he passes away.’ “
“I had no idea this happened,” he said. “I woke up two or three days later. I was in Germany when I finally woke.”
Back in the United States, Collier’s wife Iisha, who was caring for their two sons and pursuing a graduate degree in education at the time, received a call informing her she would be flown to Germany to see her husband before he dies.
“In my heart I knew he was still alive,” says the now mother of three. “I was head strong that ‘he’s not dead. He’s not dying.’ I was glad I didn’t believe what they were saying.”
She did make an abrupt trip that week. It wasn’t to Germany to say goodbye to her husband. Instead it was to the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland to help him recover.
The rehabilitation took nine months, thirty surgeries, and multiple sessions to help the former track standout learn how to care for himself and walk again.
Collier admits the process took a toll on him emotionally. So much so he told his wife he had lost the will to live.
“I’m crying hysterically because I’m thinking I’m never going to walk again. The next thing you know it felt like God came down and touched me,” says Collier. “But it was actually my wife slapping me in the back of the head.”
“I just went off,” says Iisha Collier.
Believing he had a story to share, the young wife told her husband, “you have to be the man you used to be. You’re someone’s father. You can’t be down on yourself. You have to motivate yourself to want to have a piece of life.”
She went on to challenge her husband to push through his circumstances so he could use his story to inspire others.
Collier answered the challenge. He recovered, became a professional body builder, and followed his wife into the field of education. The Maple Heights graduate landed a job at his Alma mater.
“He’s an American history teacher so what better person than actually an American vet to teach American history,” says Maple Heights High School Principal Shay Price. “The kids love him. He demonstrates opportunity to them.”
“His dedication is there,” says Maple Heights Junior Tia Harris. “He’s showing us that he wants us to be somebody; that we can be somebody.”
“I just look up to what he’s done,” says sophomore Dorien Strong. “He’s like a hero to me.”
Collier’s journey in the military and impact in the classroom led the Cleveland Cavaliers organization to surprise the Purple Heart veteran with the 2017 EveryFAN award.
The recognition celebrates a Cavs fan who demonstrates a strong work ethic, high moral values, community pride, Cavaliers pride, and everyday heroism.
Again, his wife was the driving force behind it all. She nominated him for the award.
“He was on his deathbed asking me the (Cavs) score,” says the 32-year-old. “For him to be doing that he has to be a ride or die Cavs fan.”
Corwyn credits his wife for helping him get back to where he is today. He says “She’s my biggest fan.” “She spent nine months in the hospital with me, watched me go through everything, and watched me get to this point. I love her to death. She is my rock.”
It was an absolute honor to host Corwyn Collier at game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals & provide him an opportunity to see his first ever Cavs Playoff basketball game.
And although the Cavs were not literally fighting for their “lives,” they were fighting to “stay alive” in the 2017 Finals. I think they can learn a lot from Corwyn’s inspirational “never give up” story.
He went day by day and focused on what he could do, not what he couldn’t. “it’s not about the disability, but the ability. As a father and teacher I want to show my sons and students, that no matter how large the obstacle, you can overcome it. Don’t let your current situation dictate your future.”
Corwyn’s wife was right, his story is inspiring, his words are motivational. He never gave up & continues to make the impossible possible! I hope the Cavs get a chance to read his story & it gives them the motivation they need to bring home another championship.
Just because no team in NBA history has ever come back from 3 games down, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. They just need to take it game by game and focus on being he best they can be. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It only seems impossible until someone does it.”
With their backs to the wall & all odds against them, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavs took their first step towards making their impossible possible. They fought & won game 4.
After the game, Corwyn sent me a text saying “omg, that was the best experience ever!”
We cannot thank Corwyn enough for his service, his sacrifices & for being such an inspiration! We are honored to have hosted him & glad he had an unforgettable experience watching the Cavs defeat the Warriors! One game down, 3 more to go… #Believeland
We want to thank all of our supporters for their generosity over the years. We couldn’t have hosted Corwyn at the NBA Finals without your generosity! We also want to thank New Era Cap for providing Corwyn with a brand new custom Warrior Wishes cap. You can order yours here.
My dad will be in Pittsburgh tomorrow to make more warrior wishes come true at the Pirates game. Stay tuned for more details!