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South Bay Purple Heart Recipient on Journey to the Mountaintop

A South Bay paraplegic is taking part in a six-day event that brings disabled veterans from across the country to Colorado.

On Tuesday, 58-year-old Purple Heart recipient William "Bud" McLeroy will ski from the mountaintop in Snowmass, Colorado for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic Winter Sports Clinic, a feat made even more awe-inspiring when considered with the other challenges the veteran has overcome and the positivity he maintains. 

McLeroy lost his right leg in an off-road crash in 1993 and became the first-ever amputee to work as a full-time firefighter at Federal Fire Department San Diego. 

McLeroy went on to become the first amputee to serve in Iraq. Then, while serving overseas in 2003, McLeroy suffered injuries to his spinal cord while rescuing wounded civilians.

The rescue earned McElroy the Purple Heart. 

"Losing a leg, I look at it as being a positive," said McLeroy. "Becoming a paraplegic, I look at that as being a positive. It's a positive because I've overcome things; I didn't let the bad things ruin my life." 

Command Sergeant Major William "Bud" McLeroy continued to serve with his injury for another decade before retiring in 2013 -- serving a total of 33 years in the Marine Corps, Army and Army Reserve.

He now stays active by taking part in several sports, including rock climbing, bowling and basketball.

He's using a mono-ski for Tuesday's downhill race.

"It shows you that you can get out," said McLeroy. "It shows you that you don't have to be in your house. You have a purpose in life." 

McLeroy, who has participated in the charity event for the last two years said the personal bonds he has formed are unbreakable. 

"You're talking to your brothers and sisters, people that have walked in your footsteps in combat or peacetime, McLeroy said.  There are people you become friends with. They are your true brothers and sisters."

Several years ago, one of McLeroy's children designed a challenge coin for him, which shows all of the units McLeroy served in.

Many of his awards are displayed at the home he shares with his wife in Otay Mesa. It's the same house he grew up in during the 1970's.

"Even though my kids are older and my youngest one is 28 and my oldest one is 35, I still feel like I need to be an example to them of a person that doesn't give up," explained McElroy.

The Winter Sports Clinic, co-hosted by the Veterans Administration and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), wraps up on Friday.

During the event, the veterans' are their own biggest competitor. Once it's over, their next challenge is maintaining that energy to find new activities back at home.

"That's where we're at," McLeroy explained. "We're starting to build a new life. A life that gives us purpose again."

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