Mark Little plays with the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program. Little, a former Maston student, lost both his legs below the knee from a roadside bomb in Iraq. Photo courtesy of Mark Little

Mark Little has no time for self-pity. A roadside bomb in Iraq severed both his legs below the knee, but the former George Mason University student plays ice hockey, swims, skis, runs and basically does everything that a person with two missing legs is not supposed to do. His latest quest involves performing physical exploits for charity. Little was part of a team at his gym, CrossFit Liberation in Lorton, Va., that helped raise more than $19,000 for the 2011 Fight Gone Bad 6 CrossFit fundraiser. One of the charities benefiting from the worldwide event was the Special Operations Warrior Foundation which helps the special operations military community.

For the fundraiser, Little, along with other former military members, performed a CrossFit workout wearing military gear including a ballistic vest with plates. Little said wearing the extra gear makes the workout harder and helps honor military personnel killed in action or wounded.

“We are reminding everybody, even our civilian friends who are [working out] with us, that this is what we are doing it for,” Little said. “It’s the guys [who] wear the uniform, [who] put on the kit, and literally wear this burden every day while they are deployed. The weight on their shoulders isn’t just figurative, it’s literal.”

Little said that during his workouts he wears shorts, which bare his prosthetic legs, to inspire others.

“It’s my way of showing that ‘Hey, we get hurt … but we are not going to just crawl under a rock when we get back,’” Little said.
He could have done that after the Sept. 7, 2007, incident that took his legs. Little remembers the day the bomb exploded through his Humvee; it was the third time he had been hit by a bomb during his patrols in Iraq. Little said he was sliding off the seat of his Humvee and realized he couldn’t push himself back up because his legs were gone. He had to reach with his arms to pull himself up.

But Little said that he never had a moment of indulging in self-pity.

“I really don’t think I ever felt sorry for myself,” Little said. “I felt really bad that I left my troops. That’s what I have regrets about.”
Little said that a lot of people ask how he can stay positive, be happy and smile all the time, but he says that that is just the type of person he is.

“I was always laughing and smiling. That was my demeanor anyway — always had the positive outlook,” Little said. He also credits fellow wounded service members with helping him stay the same. He said there were always people helping him navigate his way as a double amputee. One gunnery sergeant showed him prosthetic roller blade legs, and another service member taught him how to set up his snowboard and his boots for his prosthetics.

“That’s what we do for each other, us wounded guys. We show each other the way,” he said.

There is one thing, though, that made Little stop for a moment and miss his legs. It was the five-toe “gorilla shoes” that a lot of people are wearing.
“That is something that I would love to experience,” Little said. “The huge things don’t matter to me. It’s just something tiny like that.”
But Little doesn’t dwell on those moments. He is already working on his next challenge, running the 2011 Tri-State Tough Mudder course in New Jersey in November.

“I choose to be happy and have fun, versus be sad and sit around,” Little said.

Little raises money on a continuing basis for the military community. He says that he feels compelled to help service members.
“It’s my duty still to give back to soldiers [who] are doing the job,” Little said.

Two other charities he is involved in are the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program and the 46th Special Forces Company (Airborne) Association. The USA Warriors is a rehabilitative program that gets wounded military personnel playing ice hockey.

The USA Warriors will play the George Mason University ice hockey team on Nov. 12 at the Prince William Ice Center in Woodbridge, Va.