Daniel Lister is happy to be alive. The veteran lost a leg in Afghanistan which propelled his life to change from the inside out. Lister grew up as a military kid and always knew that military was going to be part of his life, just not sure what the capacity was going to be. As he was growing up, like most young adults, he didn’t know exactly what it was that he wanted to do. He looked to the military as an answer to the age old question. He joined in 2002. He states that “The reality of it is that I got married super young, … “I had to figure out a way to pay bills. I needed medical insurance, because I started having babies. The only way I could do that is through the military. I knew that was how I could pay my bills.” And then, circumstances made is more feasible for Lister to enlist. “I have a GED. ... When 9/11 happened, it made it easier for me to join, because they started accepting people with GEDs again,” Lister says. “They knew we were going to war, and I joined in February .” Lister ended up doing four tours in the Middle East (three in Iraq and one in Afghanistan), and it made him feel alive in a way that he couldn’t capture back home in Georgia. His accident happened in his last tour of Afghanistan. “After a bad step, it blew me up. I never lost consciousness during the event. I remember every detail of it. My foot was gone immediately after the explosion. My right leg was ripped from my ankle to my hip.” “Once I got to the aid station in Afghanistan, I don’t remember anything else,” he says. “I think they had me in a medically induced coma. They had to perform a ridiculous amount of surgeries just to stabilize me. With my injuries, by all accounts, I should be dead. It’s a miracle that I’m up and walking. I got blown up on June 2 and I hit Stateside on June 3.
After losing one of his limbs in Afghanistan, he knew that the military was not going to be an option any longer. Lister began to forge his new path with footwear. During his treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he had time to think about what he wanted for his life. After arriving back in his home state, he struggled with drugs and alcohol.
After getting sober, he chose to collect shoes and make that a source of happiness and income. “I started posting sneakers that I was wearing everyday on my Instagram, then it started to take off. A lot of people feel shame about [having a prosthetic]. They think it’s ugly. “What really hits me is when these kids reach out to me who have cancer or have gone through a tragic accident. They say, ‘You make it OK for me to be this way.’ Those messages are the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. That was never my intent, it was just about, ‘Here are the kicks I’m wearing today, what do y’all think?’”
Although Lister has always appreciated shoes, It’s amazing to see that such a minute thing like shoes can bring such purpose, hope and love. As well as relationships, which is one of the things that Lister holds closest to him. The relationships are like gold to Lister. “This sneakerhead community has given me my life back, to some extent,” he says. “It’s made me feel whole again. My friendships that I have now are worth more than my entire sneaker collection to me.”