Noah Galloway, a double-amputee Iraq War combat veteran, challenges himself running marathons, motivating others, and, now, dancing for Dancing with the Stars. His resiliency and determination are an inspiration for those who witness his character, his courage, and his compassion.
With humor and humility, Noah has won the hearts of many across the country. Noah’s story and his example model for each of us how to examine ourselves, change the image that we see in the mirror, and pursue our passions.
(Following is a week-by-week revelation as Noah’s story of courage, compassion, and conviction unfolded.)
Week 1 – Cha-cha-cha
Week One introduced us to a gung ho warrior fighting for his country, who, in an instant, was sidelined by tragedy during his second tour, when he “lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee in an Improvised Explosive Device attack.”
During his introductory video package, Noah explained that for years he was in denial about his condition. As he put it,
“I had this mentality that this isn’t a big deal. I can make this happen. I can make it on my own. Everyone kept telling me I was going to go through some stages of depression whether I realized it or not. I was like, not me. I portrayed myself as this invincible person to everyone I knew.”
Noah kept his pain and suffering hidden, even form himself.
“I drank and I would just sit at home. Or I would go out drinking all the time. I was partying like nothing was wrong. But then there were those moments that I would just sit at home and drink, by myself. Stay up all night.”
But then Noah had an epiphany. He realized, “I still had two limbs. I could do something with that. I thought about my kids and how I wasn’t being a good father.”
Noah’s story of self-identity stretches us in grasping what it means to be human and to be whole. After his debut dance, a tearful Carrie Ann Inaba said, “It was profound and you’re broadening my scope of what dance looks like.”
Week 2 – Samba
In Week Two, Len Goodman told Noah, “You’re an ordinary guy but you do extraordinary things.”
To the surprise of Noah and the viewers, Noah was reunited with his girlfriend, Jamie Boyd, who is now an Army Reserve specialist. Noah had just completed his dance which he had dedicated to his girlfriend: “It was a huge surprise – probably the best surprise I’ve ever had.”
Week 3 – Argentine Tango
Week Three saw Noah reject a new prosthetic arm (learning to dance and learning to use the arm at the same time was too much), finding that he could perform beautifully without it.
Len Goodman told Noah, “You’re my hero.”
Week 4 – Contemporary
Week Four was transformational and inspirational. Noah revealed a turning point in his life and his contemporary dance brought his story to life.
In the opening video package, Noah revealed that his injuries had led to a deep depression which overwhelmed him:
“It really depressed me. I portrayed this image to everyone around me that I wasn’t affected by it. I buried it all. I got to where I would just sit home by myself and drink and try to cope with it by myself. It was the biggest mistake I ever made.”
But then Noah came to his senses:
“I really looked in the mirror and quit looking at what I was missing and paid more attention to what I still had left. I realized I had to make a change.”
“Once I accepted my injury, got back in the gym, started living a healthier life, everything picked up.”
“It’s like I had to be injured, I had to go through that dark time, to get to where I am today.”
Noah’s dance began with special effects showing a shirtless Noah with four limbs, then the reality was revealed in a mirror, a man seemingly less than whole. But then – the dance!
This poetic and magical dance of transformation began with his seeming limitations but concluded with the fulfillment of his aspirations. As Noah explained, “This dance represents the journey of acceptance from the man I was to the man I’ve become.”
An enraptured Bruno Tonioli: “You’re experiences are unimaginable, but your spirit soars unbroken. You really are the ultimate role model. You want a superhero – there it is.”
It was as if Noah had experienced a new birth.
Week 5 – Foxtrot
During Week Five, Sharna Burgess reminded Noah, “What is it that we said in the beginning? We’re not gonna focus on what we can’t do, but what we can!” Something we should all remember.
Week 6 – Rumba and Freestyle
Noah’s protective nature was self-evident in Week Six. The pre-dance video package upset Noah: “I hated that the package made [Sharna] look bad.”
As Noah explained on Fox News: “The argument was my fault, but that wasn’t portrayed in the package the way it was edited … and … I’m not used to that and [I’m] … not the type of person that someone I care about is going to look bad when it was my fault. … I’m protective of my friends. I’ve always been that way.”
Week 7 – Jazz and Cha-cha-cha
Len Goodman again praised Noah, “You may have half the limbs of most guys, but I tell you, you’re twice the man.”
Week 8 – Tango and Salsa
“The white valiant knight,” Bruno Tonioli erupted, “he takes on any challenge, goes for it and does his best.”
Speaking for the audience, Carrie Ann Inaba praised Noah, saying, “So, two girls, one arm – probably impossible for most people. But not for you, Mr. Noah – It’s Mr. I’m Possible.”
Dance Center returned to Dancing With the Stars and provided its humorous take on the remaining contestants. A graphic highlighted Noah’s strengths and weaknesses in a comic but accurate way, encapsulating, “More of a man than you are.”
Week 9 – Viennese Waltz and Paso Doble
Let’s begin Week Nine with the highlight of the night. Following Noah’s first dance of the night, Jamie Boyd told Noah, “You’re just a beautiful dancer and you just have a beautiful heart and you put it out there every single week.” Then, making DWTS history, Noah stunned his girlfriend and the audience by getting down on one knee and proposing to Jamie, who immediately accepted.
This was certainly Noah’s night. Julianne Hough echoed Carrie Ann’s thoughts from the first week, saying, “Noah has completely redefined dance. Not just for me, but, I think, for everyone.”
In the pre-dance video package, Noah confessed, “To wake up one day and to have two of my limbs gone – it broke me. There were several times I thought I would much rather have died than to wake up like this.”
But now, Noah boldly faces every challenge presented to him. As Bruno Tonioli observed, “Every dance that is done is a victory against the challenges that he has been given.”
Even James T. Kirk, er, William Shatner said, “Noah teaches us to take what life has offered and not only to deal with it but to make it a plus.”
Week 10 – Argentine Tango, Freestyle
As Noah said in his video package during the finals, “I have fought too hard to give up.” Recognizing the true champion within Noah, Carrie Ann Inaba exclaimed, “I know that there’s this incredible survivor’s spirit inside of you, that champion in there.”
Regarding Noah’s freestyle dance, Julianne Hough observed, “For me, the choreography, the intricacy, the connection between you and Sharna [and] the other dancers, I’ve never seen something so whole.”
Wholeness and completeness are themes returned to again and again during this DWTS season.
Bruno Tonioli similarly was stunned by the depth and essence of Noah’s freestyle: “It had an incredible poetic quality, so truthful, so meaningful.”
Anyone who questioned Noah’s wholeness or his manhood prior to DWTS has surely been awakened ti reality, for, in reality, as human beings we are all too often prone to falling for outward illusions while missing the inner reality.
Some might think that due to what he lacks, Noah might be less than human. But, instead of less, he is more. Digging down deep and – whether or not he knows it – by the grace of God, Noah has achieved what few could imagine. And Noah has done so with integrity.
Lest we forget, integrity means “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.”
In keeping with her views from the first week, Carrie Ann Inaba waxed eloquent: “There is nothing to fix about you. You have shown us over and over again what art is. Dance is a part of art and it’s meant to inspire us and transform us and make us contemplate things bigger than ourselves – and that is what you do every time.”
Lessons From a Life Lived Courageously
This column is being posted prior to the results of the finals. Regardless of the outcome of this particular competition, Noah Galloway is a winner in life. He has proven himself a champion – to himself and to the world. Noah has nothing else to prove.
Noah’s story is one of not just survival but victory. He proves that, given a chance – or taking a chance – the human spirit can rise above seemingly impossible challenges and not only survive, but thrive.
Among the manifold lessons we can take from Noah’s story and his experiences on DWTS are these:
Don’t be defined by others. Don’t let other people place limitations on who you are or what you can accomplish.
Adapt. Life happens. Whatever happens, we can adapt to our changing circumstances in order to survive and thrive.
Aim high. Don’t settle for less or limit yourself. Rather, challenge yourself. You just might surprise yourself.
Have a support system. Noah acknowledged the reason for his success: “that’s because of all the support that so many people who have never met me have shown.”
Have a sense of purpose. Noah changed his life for his children. He had someone to be better for – his family and, now, his fiancé.
Noah is now a “personal trainer and motivational speaker” whose motto – “No Excuses” – graces the name of a charitable foundation.