Do you remember what you were doing on September 7th, 2010? Probably not, unless there was an important milestone in your life. Kionte Storey remembers this date as if it were the same day you are reading this. Storey served America as a member of the Marine Corps and was on a mission in Middle Easy. It was his second service after serving in Iraq the year before.
After three of his fellow Marines surveyed a building on a mission in Afghanistan, he went inside to see for himself. One step changed Storey's life forever and it could have ended.
“We tried to be radio silent. So I went into the building, and mind you, about 12 other people went into the building before me," he said. “There was an IED three steps in there that somehow no one else stepped on or stepped over in any way. You can't really say nobody stepped on it."
Unfortunately for Kionte Storey, he did, and his right leg sustained the most damage. Despite what had just happened, his Marine Corps instincts took over, he remembered to control his breathing to keep his heart rate from racing, and stayed calm while the other team members figured out the best way to get him to safety . There's a good chance his decisions at that moment could have saved his own life.
Courtesy of Kionte Storey
"It was on the meat and then my team got me out," Storey said. He was the only one injured. Although Storey was able to survive and recover for the next two years, it was evident that his active duty military career, which began in 2007, was over. Storey was honored by receiving the Purple Heart for his sacrifice and service to freedom and his country.
What was perhaps just as difficult for Kionte Storey was the recovery process. He took several medications that helped him manage the pain and adjust to a new life as an amputee. The drugs ended up having a strong side effect that he didn't want. He was feeling depressed, using the medicine to deal with it instead of healing, and his mindset was in a dark place.
"I found myself abusing painkillers to distract myself from my thoughts. At some point I realized that this isn't the life I want to live and it's not me," he explained. Storey grew up without a father in his life, and his mother wasn't in the picture either. He was actually raised by his second cousin, whom he considers his mother. She adopted him and made it official. Due to his birth mother's struggle with drugs, he didn't want to find himself in a similar situation.
"I flushed my painkillers down the toilet and went about what I wanted to do: be active and travel, I left them cold."
Fitness wasn't a part of Storey's life growing up, but it would become a big part of it going forward. He began training in various ventures, including track and field. What he really enjoyed was sprinting. He trained for several major competitions, including the Warrior Games and the Paralympics. He also developed another passion - mountaineering. In 2013, Storey traveled to Antarctica and scaled Mount Vinson Massif, one of the seven peaks in the world. He questioned himself as he progressed, but he never gave up.
"I wanted to either reach the top or die trying," Storey proclaimed. "I knew I had it in me. I thought of the people who served and died before me and that motivated me to keep going.”
One can only imagine what the world looked like from the top of this mountain. Storey described the moment he stood on the summit as a turning point in his life. "That's still the most important thing for me, because that changed everything. I felt like I could do anything and that I wasn't going to let my injury define me."
Courtesy of Kionte Storey
Kionte Storey would later also successfully climb Kilimanjaro, and he has set himself the goal of one day climbing all seven peaks. It won't be an overnight process, but he's confident his success on the first two mountains means he can make it through.
Storey's most recent athletic achievement came at the 2022 Invictus Games as a representative for the US team. He walked away with two gold medals and one silver medal while competing at the track. He explained the feeling of representing his country as an athlete.
"It feels incredible. It has been amazing to show the world not just what I can do, but what anyone can do while recovering from injury or disability. Team US showed up and we dominated," he said. As proud as he and his teammates are, there was an even more important benefit from the competition.
“The real key takeaway was meeting other people who had their own disabilities and injuries from all walks of life. Seeing how inspirational we all are and how we all managed to keep moving forward was a testament to the human spirit.”
Courtesy of Kionte Storey
Today, Storey is a full-time student working on his bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He hopes it will lead to a career in physical therapy. Ultimately, Storey's heroism, ability to overcome adversity and pursuit of athletic greatness have inspired many people over the years and continue to do so today. To be clear, he sees himself as an athlete and trains for the next goal without using his prosthetic leg as a crutch.
“I am someone who wants to pursue the next sporting goal and take on the next challenge. I don't let my prosthesis or my injury define me. I continue to challenge myself every day in every way I can.”
You can follow Kionte on Instagram @kiontestorey