Peshtigo, Wis. (WFRV) – Jeff Vorphal joined the Wisconsin National Guard in 1998.

“I think the thing that made me want to join was just listening to the other old veterans talk about basic training and stuff and I’m like, ‘I want that challenge, I want something that’s really going to push my limits.’ That’s really what sucked me in,” Vorphal recalled.

Pushing the limits might be an understatement.

Military was in his family- Granpas, uncles. Now it was Vorphal’s turn.

Vorphal ended up deploying to Iraq in 2005.

“When you get off the plane, you just feel this blast of heat, and you probably hear this from a lot of guys, you think it’s just the jet engine blowing on you. The hottest I remember is 130 degrees,” he recalled.

Blazing heat during the day, frigid at night, and the fear of never knowing what was next.

“It’s like driving through a mine field every day for work. Imagine going to work every day wondering, is there going to be a bomb that I’m going to pass? Is  it going to hit me or the guy in front of me?” said Vorphal.

That fear became a reality when Vorphal and his crew were bombed on a routine drive to deliver supplies; He was the driver.

“All I remember is leaning over to light my cigarette, and that’s the last thing I remember. I think it actually saved my life because the way the bomb came into the truck, all of the shrapnel, I think I actually leaned out of the way of most of it trying to light my cigarette. I got peppered (with shrapnel) across the side and in the back,” he said.

Vorphal lost one of his crew members that day, and suffered injuries that would take him six months to recover from, injuries that still cause him pain today.

He would stay in the Guard another three years.

While it might not have gone how Vorphal expected, he never stopped pushing himself, learning the true meaning of perserverance.

“I guess I learned that I’m more capable of doing things I never thought I could do, I’m a little more brave than I thought I was. The biggest thing is if you’re scared of something, don’t run away from your fears, take them head on. That’s my biggest takeaway,” he said.