Former combat survivor becomes triathlete to help others

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Navy Seal, who survived 27 close-range shots and a grenade blast a few feet from his head in Iraq, is now on a mission to help other combat veterans get the best treatment for traumatic brain injuries.

Senior Chief Mike Day was with the elite Navy Seals for more than 20 years.

On the second of what was to be three missions in Iraq, his team was ambushed near Fallujah in the Anbar province.

"We were tasked to go after an al Qaeda cell that was shooting down helicopters," Day said.

It was April 6, 2007.

Day was the first to encounter the four insurgents in a 12 by 12 foot room.

"The rifle was shot outta my hand upon entry into the room. I grabbed my pistol and started shooting back. It felt like I was surrounded by people just beating me up with sledgehammers," he said.

Day was shot 27 times close range and took a grenade blast just feet from his head, knocking him unconscious.

"The body armor took eleven rounds. I had seven broken ribs," Day said.

"From the ground up, I had one bullet that went clean through my left thigh. Another one entered my lower right thigh and came out my upper right thigh. That should have hit my femoral artery. Should have killed me," Day said.

One went through his groin, two bullets through his backside, where one bullet is still lodged.

"I had one that snuck under my body armor and went into my abdomen, penetrating my intestinal track, I had a colostomy bag for a year," Day said.

"My left thumb was nearly amputated. I took four rounds in my upper left arm, three in my upper right arm, two rounds shattered my scapula, and another, hit under my armpit," he said.

"I prayed to God. It was the most sincere prayer I ever made," Day said.

Somehow, he survived to go home to his wife and two daughters.

"I was there and it's hard for me to believe," Day said.

It took three months to walk again but he was determined to recover and amazingly, only spent 16 days in the hospital despite doctors saying it would be much longer.

After the surgeons stitched him back up, Day said things still were’t quite right.

"I can honestly tell you, the hardest fight I've ever been involved in, is the fight with myself," Day said.

He was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury at the Carrick Brain Center in Irving, Texas.

Private donors fully fund travel, lodging, and treatment for veterans, starting with hunting or fishing trips with other wounded combat veterans, and specialized care and follow-up tracking progress at six and 12 months down the road

Carrick, offers a non-pharmaceutical approach that’s not covered by insurance.

"I know what they're doing helps people," Day said.

He said they helped him with his anxiety, and he was able to get a couple more hours of sleep overnight, when he’d been averaging only three to four.

Day retired from the Navy and is now taking on a new mission. He wants his combat brothers and sisters to have access to the same hope and future.

"I'd like to think I'm here for a reason. And I’m doing what I think is the reason," Day said.

He just raised $130,000 to sponsor veteran care at Carrick, by running the Florida Half Ironman.

Author and veteran advocate Robert Vera, met Day while climbing Mt. Rainer’s 14,411 foot summit in honor of another fallen Navy Seal five years ago.

"When I heard his really incredible story, at first, I didn't actually believe it was true!" Vera said.

"I was really inspired, like, Wow!" Vera said, "I think no one would blame you for sort of taking the rest of your life off and sort of coasting."

"Rather than taking the easy route, Mike’s continued to be an advocate for other wounded special forces, pulling his brothers out of some very sad times," Vera said.

He’s joined Day, on the effort to help raise awareness for the often stigmatized and underfunded treatment for TBI, or traumatic brain injury.

"We hear a lot about you know the people who step into the breach and rescue their fallen brother, but very seldom do we hear about the heroes here," Vera said.

Day said he used to be empathetic, but surviving that day, changed him.

How could it not?

"I want to be more concerned with other people’s situations in small or large ways, help them get past that," Day said. "Everybody you run into at one point or is dealing with something. Some kind of crisis. And I just want to be a step to the good!"

And he is.

Day’s efforts to help his fellow wounded warriors battling the unseen scars of war caught the attention of Hollywood actor Chris Pratt. Pratt posted a video about Day on Facebook September 11th.

"My name's Chris Pratt, and today, Nine-Eleven, I'm going to thank a veteran. Today, I’m thanking Mike Day! He’s a great guy. He sacrificed so much of himself for our country, and I encourage anyone who has a veteran in their life to make a video and post it using the hashtag #ThankAVeteran.”

Pratt’s post, has gone viral, with more than three million views in less than a week.

Now, Day’s going for a full Ironman, The Kona World Championships, October 10.

Click here If you would like to sponsor him and help more wounded warriors get the same state-of-the-art treatment.

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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