“I have a lot of support,” the Acworth native said. “A lot of my friends, a lot of my family. I have so much support I don’t know what to do with it.”
After the cushion he’s sitting on becomes dislodged, Love moves gracefully to his wheelchair from a hotel chair, displaying the results of years of inpatient and outpatient therapy he just completed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“My rehab was more outside of the box than most people,” Love said.
Love, who was just discharged from the Marine Corps. on Sept. 29, was in a room on the 38th floor of a downtown Atlanta hotel this week to conduct a series of interviews. While he’d made brief visits back to the area for events like the April 2011 parade to honor him in Acworth, the Kell High School graduate said that Thursday was his first day back in Georgia as a full-time resident.
A third generation Marine, Love sustained his injuries as the point man on a foot patrol on Oct. 25, 2010, five months after he deployed for Afghanistan. He was a member of the First Recon Battalion B Company stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“Since then, it’s been a long road,” he said. “It feels like five years, not two years.”
Love’s father, Gary Love, lived with his son in Washington for the past year.
“I’m glad that he’s back,” Gary Love said. “It’s been a long, intense year for me and him together.”
But the elder Love said the experience together was still valuable.
“It’s an odd thing to say, I kind of enjoyed it,” Gary Love said. “It definitely brought me and my son closer together. We trained together and had many adventures together. All the different people we’ve met, all the different places we’ve been.”
Todd Love now looks to spend more time with his mother, Tammy Cox.
“My mom would tell me it’s a blessing for me to be back,” he said. “She said it’s been hard for them to heal because I haven’t been able to spend much time with her at all. I can get that, what do you call it?”
“Closure,” his father said.
Since he was injured, Todd Love has participated in some activities that would be tough for most able-bodied people. They include wrestling an alligator for the Animal Planet show “Gator Boys” and, in August, he took part in a Super Spartan Race in Leesburg, Va., in which competitors face a 10-mile obstacle course.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Love said. “It’s lots of fun. We all do it with gas masks.”
Love is already planning to compete in another Spartan race later this month in South Carolina.
Now that he is back, Love plans to get a handicap accessible apartment with his brother. He said every day his life can be completely different, but that’s what he expects.
“My whole life’s been like this,” Love said. “I never know what tomorrow’s going to bring. I always make plans and everything falls through, but everything turns out alright. Just hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
But an organization called the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is teaming up with actor Gary Sinise, known for his roles in “Forrest Gump” and “CSI: NY,” to help Love and other injured veterans find permanent housing. Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band will perform Nov. 3 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster.
The concert will raise money to build specially-designed “Smart Homes” for Love and Michael Schlitz, a Fort Benning-based soldier who was burned over 85 percent of his body and lost both his arms in Iraq.
The two participated in the Tunnel to Towers run and walk on Sept. 30, the day after his discharge, in New York. The 5-kilometer event retraces the path New York Firefighter Stephen Siller ran on Sept. 11, 2001. Wearing 60 pounds of gear, Siller ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which had been closed to traffic, to the World Trade Center, where he lost his life.
Love and Schlitz, 35, met when they went to New York for the event. They quickly became friendly — and competitive.
“He came cruising by me in the tunnel, but when we got to the hill, I caught him,” Schlitz said.
Schlitz plans to build his Smart Home in Columbus, while Love wants his to go in Paulding County. Love said he wants to be close to his parents, just not too close.
“I’m a single man,” he said. “My whole house is going to be a man cave.”
Chris Kuban, spokesman for the Tunnels to Towers Foundation, said the average Smart Home costs around $500,000. Love’s home will include cabinets that can lower to his level, chair-level stoves and air conditioning that can be run off a tablet computer.
“We try to go beyond the ADA requirements,” Kuban said.
Love plans to go to college in 2013, though he’s not yet sure where. He is interested in studying human anatomy.
“I Google stuff all the time,” he said. “Like a nerd.”