You may have heard of Noah Galloway. He was an Army infantry soldier when he was injured in a bomb blast in Iraq. He lost his left leg and arm—and he went all the way to #3 on Dancing with the Stars in 2015.
In his book, LIVING WITH NO EXCUSES, Noah says his life is no Hollywood movie. And though there were times I wanted a deeper exploration of what he was going through during his journey, I have the highest respect for him for telling it like it was.
For example, he did things that weren’t the smartest: snuck out of Walter Reed on the weekends; signed papers that weren’t accurate; drove drunk (and then ignored the consequences of doing so, for which he spent 10 days in the county jail). At one point he was told he had ADD, but he refused to address it.
Along the way, he became a father for the 2nd and 3rd time (his first, born premature, nearly died). He lost his way and sank into alcohol and depression. He struggled in his marriage (and his subsequent relationship with his girlfriend, Jamie).
Luckily, Noah had people who believed in him. Eventually he started respecting himself (his words). He got fit and started running marathons. That lead to an opportunity to be on the cover of Men’s Health magazine—and that’s when Dancing with the Stars took notice.
During the show, Noah struck me as confident in himself (how could he not be to go on national television?) but not ostentatious. When he says yes to something, he’s all in (sometimes to the detriment of his relationships). He has a powerful drive to inspire others, and he has said that the reason he went on DWTS (which he nearly turned down) was for the exposure it would provide veterans and amputees.
Personally, I was inspired to see someone missing limbs, who claims he couldn’t dance even when he was fully bodied, go all the way to #3 on Dancing with the Stars! And when I started developing the character of Spencer Finley (and his story/journey) in DANCES WITH FIRE, Noah immediately came to mind. I doubt Noah would have anticipated his journey would inspire a romance writer, but I like to think he would be pleased—and I hope I’ve done justice to both the real-life and the fictional veteran!
Credit should also be given to Noah’s dance partner, Sharna Burgess, for great choreography that took advantage of Noah’s strengths. It wasn’t just his dance moves or the fact that he was an amputee; I’m convinced it was his genuine smile and his approachable attitude (although in his book he admits that he “was hurting” physically). You can see a video of his DWTS dances below.
Noah on Dances with the Stars