On April 24, Marine Cpl. Todd Love's impromptu concert in the America Building at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center simply began with him noticing the piano in the lobby.
Maneuvering his body to make himself comfortable at the keys, he started with a few melodies that led to a couple songs that ended in a classical piece, Bach's "Solfeggietto."
Without a left arm and without legs, his strokes drew applause.
The 22-year-old Marine explained playing the piano was something he happened to "pick up" while in high school. At the age of 20, he lost his left arm and legs in an Afghanistan explosion on Oct. 25, 2010, while on foot patrol in the Sangin district.
"I was up front with the minesweepers searching for explosives, and I found them," Love joked during a welcome home celebration last year in his native Acworth, Ga. But he added, "I haven't lost anything in my eyes."
Assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, B Company, which is stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Love began his rehabilitation at the former National Naval Medical Center and former Walter Reed Army Medical Center not long after the IED (improvised explosive device) blast which changed his life.
"It was low metallic pressure plate, meaning it was low metallic copper, so the metal detector I had in my left hand didn't pick it up," Love explained.
He said if it wasn't for his Marine Brothers, he wouldn't have survived. He said they are why he waited to celebrate his 21st birthday in April 2011; so they could be there to celebrate with him. "That was cool. I owe it to them.
They were like, 'We owe it to you because if it wasn't you, it was going to be one of us.' I'm glad that I could be that buffer for them. I would have hated to see it happen to my buddy Mitch, who was our point man before me. So I'm glad it was me instead of him."
Love admitted he thought of being injured before the explosion which changed his life, but he said he wasn't too worried about being hurt because "there were so many people back home praying for me it gave him comfort. It wasn't like I was stressed out every day [in Afghanistan]; I was actually very content. Here [at home], I have a million things to worry about; out there [in combat] you have two things to worry about - you and the guy next to you."
Since the explosion and his rehabilitation, Love says he's "evolved," and has learned a lot about himself. "I've had to grow up instantly." He explained he's had to relearn to do "everything" all over again, including walk.
"Todd is truly an amazing man of character," said Brett May, a photographer and long-time friend of Love from his home in Georgia. May has documented Love's story as a project. "Todd is a man whom I admired and revered even before he was injured."
He added, "Todd has the emotional and physical capacity to do whatever he puts his mind to. I believe his attitude about life speaks louder than anything else. After all that has happened, he seems in some ways at peace.
Todd is a hero to this country and to the people in his life. I am truly lucky to call him my friend. Todd is an amazing person and an even better friend."
Not long after his welcome home ceremony on April 9, 2011, during which Acworth's Mayor Tommy Allegood and the Board of Aldermen for the city declared Cpl. Todd Love Day, the Marine returned to Walter Reed Bethesda to continue his rehabilitation. In addition to playing the piano at WRNMMC since his injury, Love has learned to skydive, scuba dive, ski, water ski, and drive an adaptive vehicle.
"Playing the piano has definitely me feel good about myself," Love said. "At one point I used to think that I would never be able to play like I used to; I'm actually getting to a point that I'm almost better than I used to be. That makes me feel good. It definitely makes me happy." He has started to learn how to read music as well.
The third-generation Marine, whose father and grandfather were also in the Marine Corps, added, "I've always been a firm believer I can do and achieve anything I put my mind to. I know the mind is a powerful tool, and anything with God is possible."