Lying in a hospital bed with almost every bone in his body broken and bleeding from the brain, Peter Rudland thought his competitive sporting days were over.
This week marked the 13th anniversary of the day his life changed forever.
The special forces sergeant and his platoon from the army's elite 2nd Commando Regiment were heading to a night raid deep inside Taliban territory.
The Blackhawk helicopter they were in was flying fast and low, hugging the mountainous terrain.
Minutes from their target, an insurgent stronghold in Afghanistan's rugged Kandahar province, the chopper slammed into an embankment.
Three Australian Commandos and an American soldier were killed; 11 others were badly injured.
Mr Rudland had been thrown 35 metres from the helicopter, his rifle impaled his leg and he suffered a brain injury.
He recalls the confusion of waking up in a German hospital and seeing a broken body he no longer recognised, understanding but struggling to accept what had happened.
"What have I got to complain about?" he says.
"You cannot be selfish and say, 'Woe is me,' when other people died.
"I have got an injury, but I'll get over that. Yes, it is painful but that's a reminder of who I am and the profession that I chose."
Mr Rudland says that June day is a painful reminder of his mates who never made it home, and a day he'd rather forget.
"But I'm always very cognisant of what it is and how it changed my life," Mr Rudland says.
"I think of the families who have to live with the burden of loss every day."
This bulletproof psychology has seen him transition to a post-military career as a mental health advocate and counsellor for defence and emergency services personnel.
In his role as an RSL ambassador, he was one of the most outspoken voices during the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
Doctors told him he would never walk again but he made a remarkable recovery and has regained use of his legs.
He battles fatigue and pain but considers himself lucky.
While he can no longer run and finds it too painful to ride a normal bike, that didn't stop the once ultra-fit runner and triathlete from chasing his sporting dreams.
First it was sit skiing before going on to represent Australia in cycling, wheelchair rugby and archery at three Invictus Games.
Next weekend he will line up alongside his brother-in-law for his first full-distance wheelchair marathon on the Gold Coast, not far from his home at Terranora in the Tweed region.
Despite undergoing a minor procedure in hospital a week ago that disrupted his training, he refused to pull out of the race.
He's predicting a "hell of a lot" of pain but says the opportunity to inspire his son and set an example for the veterans he mentors is a "no-brainer".
"Sport has put my body and my headspace back where it needs to be," Mr Rudland says.
"It's a nice flat track for the wheelchair.
"I'm not going out to win, that's not going to happen … but I'm happy to roll around, enjoy the day and enjoy the atmosphere.
"Life isn't about negatives, it is about positives and the negatives we see are just challenges for us to push forward."