It was literally one step forward, two steps back for Cedric King as he learned to walk again after having both of his legs severed by an improvised explosive device (IED) during his second tour in Afghanistan. But he got up … again and again, each time with even more steely determination to weather what he calls “the storm.”
“I’m not going to tell you it wasn’t tough,” said King, who made an appearance on the Kalaepohaku campus to give his keynote address titled, “Relentless Spirit, Resilient Mind.” “The beginning was difficult. I had to relearn how to walk, how to write, how to type, how to drive. But I didn’t give up and play victim, and the woe-is-me card.”
A retired Army 82nd Division Airborne Master Sergeant, King was only 34 years old when he lost his limbs and severely injured his right forearm, which took years to reconstruct and is now disfigured.
Recalling the moment when his platoon was under machine gun fire while doing reconnaissance in an Afghanistan village, King described the explosion as “knocking him off his feet.” When he gained consciousness, he saw in his periphery that a medic was running towards him pulling out a tourniquet while en route.
“I thought, I just got knocked down,” said King, who was unaware of his severe injuries until he looked down at his severed legs and could see his radial artery pulsating from his forearm. “The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital, eight days later.”
King would spend three years at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Military Advanced Training Center (MATC), which is a state-of-the-art facility where service members, retirees and family members use sophisticated prosthetics and cutting-edge athletic equipment to move from injury to independence.
“When I woke up, I knew the life that I had was no longer the same,” King said. “I couldn’t make peace with this storm. But my wife and kids told me they needed me to be dad again.”
With his family in attendance, King thanked his mom Sandra Williams, step-dad Valton Williams and his aunts, Coralis McCormick and Karen McClinic, for their years of support and love. “They probably had it harder because they were the ones who got the call,” King said. “You know it’s possible that something like this could happen, but you never think it would happen to you.”
While recovering from his injuries, King made it a point to complete his bachelor’s degree and began to fine tune his speaking voice. “When I was in the hospital, my heart said ‘Hey man, you still have so much good to give,’” recounted the North Carolina native. “If you could only get out of this hospital bed, you could probably be inspiring to other people.”
Since becoming a bilateral amputee below the knee, King has shared his story of perseverance and resilience with such audiences as the US Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy at West Point, and professional sports teams of the NFL, NBA and MLB. He has spoken about his experience with Fortune 500 companies from Home Depot to Facebook. And in February 2019, his story was published into print when he released his book called, “The Making Point.”
Clutching her copy of “The Making Point” at the TEDx-like talk at the T.C. Ching Conference Center, nursing sophomore Grace Kang ’26 presented King with an orchid lei, telling him how inspiring it was to read about his life.
In his book, King shares his mindsets, philosophies and stories that include how 21 months after losing both of his legs, he completed the 2014 Boston Marathon. And after 26 months and three days, he finished a 70.3 mile half Ironman Triathlon. He has been featured on such cable networks as CBS, NBC, ABC, HBO and the NFL Network. The 45-year-old Atlanta resident is also a two-time New York City Marathon Finisher, a five-time Boston Marathon finisher, numerous half marathons and a thrice 48.6 mile Disney Marathon series finisher.
“Your process touched me and made me cry,” Kang told King. “I don’t know how you coped during your darkest moments. You kept getting up no matter the challenges.”
Toward the end of his talk, King issued his own challenge to Nick Creech, Kaila Frank ’24 and Andrew Ancheta ’21. Sitting on a chair, King removed his prosthetics and then maneuvered his his hip and thigh onto the chair and lowered his upper torso in a push-up position.
“I’m the storm,” King told Creech, Frank and Ancheta. “And now you’re going to get down and match me in push-ups. I’m going to do everything to try to trick you to give up. So, can you outlast the storm?”
After 12 reps, the challenge was over. Creech, Frank and Ancheta survived the storm.
“You have to have reps, which represent hard times, and each time you do a rep, you’re getting stronger,” said King, using metaphorical terms. “Storms are there to train you; they’re your allies and not your enemy.
“You have to relook how you see things,” King continued. “You could see yesterday as great, but you could make tomorrow even better.”