ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Friday will mark five years since a Minnesota lawmaker nearly died while serving his country in Iraq.

“People who have been through this, similar things, we call this our ‘Alive Day,'” said SSG John Kriesel.

Kriesel lost both his legs on December 2, 2006 after his Humvee drove over an IED near Fallujah, Iraq.

The explosion killed two of his best friends.

“Seeing all the blood and everything — I was pretty sure that’s where my life was going to end,” said Kriesel.

It almost did. In an instant, the explosion shredded both of his legs from the knee down. Before he could even feel pain, he knew he was dying.

“I remember thinking that when my friends tell my wife that I passed away, you know, that I wasn’t freaking out, that I was calm and at peace with it,” said Kriesel.

They never had to tell her, however. Kriesel doesn’t remember being flown to Walter Reed Medical Center, but he does remember waking up to see his wife’s face, and then learning that his legs had been amputated.

“Then I asked about the others and that’s when she told me that Corey and Bryan had given their life,” said Kriesel.

A picture taken in Iraq showed Corey Rystad on Kriesel’s right and Bryan McDonough on his left. It was taken just two hours before both men lost their lives in the explosion.

“They were two of the greatest guys you will ever meet. When you are over there, you spend so much time together. You are so close and you have all these plans when you get back. That was the toughest thing is all the plans that we had, realizing when I woke up at the hospital that I was never going to see them again,” said Kriesel.

Kriesel says they are still with him every day, however. He wears a bracelet with their names on it.

There are other reminders, too. Every morning, after he takes a shower, Kriesel has to put on his metal legs before he can leave the house.

“I see the scars all over my body. They are constant reminders and they are with me every day,” said Kriesel.

Kriesel is a husband, a father of two boys, and has written a book about his experience called “Still Standing.”

In 2010, he was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican, but doesn’t toe the party line on all issues, including gay marriage. He said he believes gay marriage should be legal and he says the reason is simple: it took one second for him to realize that life is too short, and the greatest tragedy of all would be to spend it unhappy.

“You are never too cool to tell your parents you love them. You are never too cool to tell your friends you love them. Most importantly, slow down and enjoy life. I used to get wrapped up in school and work, but not anymore. I’m happier now than I have ever been in my life. On those tough days, it reminds me that I have no room to feel sorry for myself or get down because I got a chance that my friends didn’t get and I’m not going to waste it,” said Kriesel.

John Lauritsen

Comments (14)
  1. Ed says:

    Nice story. Lot of respect for this fellow. He nailed a healthy outlook on life and has solid advice. I like it.

  2. Dave says:

    Probably the only politician I respect in MN at this point!

  3. Fred says:

    What a great example of a fine human being, I salute you sir.

  4. james2 says:

    After growing up as an officer’s kid, and a Vet myself, I get that he is one of a kind, that truely understands the sovereign indiviualism that makes our country great. Add compassion, honesty, and his love for ALL Minnesotans and we have an example that some of our other politicians should exemplify. Unlike those other MN politicians, he does not embarras me, nor cause me to make excuses, but he does make me proud, and humble. I thank him for his service!!! both on the fileld and in the legislature.

    1. Dave says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more, James!

  5. Dale Gribble says:

    It’s a shame to see a combat veteran betray his country by supporting un-Chriistian perversions. Maybe his judgment was impared by the explosion? Now he’s no better than the other traitors.

    1. Dave says:

      He fought for a country that supports the freedom of religion and choice, how is he betraying his country at all by supporting choice for all of its people?

    2. The Grey says:

      Country wasn’t founded on religion, but freedom of, and if you want to place religion
      in determining someones proof of validity than your no different than the the in-sergeants I fight in Iraq today . For you to call him a traitor really puts in question why my families served since the civil war for weak minded, self righteous people who are just in “it” for them selves.

  6. josh hatton says:

    Awesome John I am very proud of you keep up the great work buddy..Hatton

    1. Will Bernhjelm says:

      Couldn’t have said it any better myself Hatton. You are truly one of a kind and I’m honored to call you a friend Kries.–Berny

  7. Mike Olson says:

    John is TRULY an inspiration and a wonderful human being. I have heard him often on KFAN and today, on the 5 year anniversary of the explosion, he gave a blow by blow description of it on the radio. Truly an exceptional human being.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.