After staring down death, a veteran from Colorado Springs finds life in the Wounded Warrior Project

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- A Colorado Springs veteran is at the White House Thursday. President Donald Trump is saluting William Mathis and dozens of other veterans working to come back from their injuries, both visible and invisible.

“There was a total of 12 different mortars hitting within 35 feet of us,” said Mathis.

The Army veteran recounted a mortar attack in Iraq that left him with PTSD and blindness.

“All we could do was pray,” said Mathis.

After serving for five years, the Colorado Springs native left Iraq in 2011. He says he did not know he needed help.

“I was contemplating just stepping out in the middle of traffic and ending everything,” said Mathis.

Mathis says a savior came in the form of the Wounded Warrior Project, the veteran’s services charity that helps more than a hundred thousand veterans across the country.

“They went and taught me how to go and continue moving forward,” said Mathis.

This week, Mathis is participating in the Wounded Warrior Project’s 12th Soldier Ride around the Washington area. One of their stops was in the East Room of the White House for a ceremony with President Trump.

“They went and threw us a hero’s welcome,” said Mathis.

The Wounded Warrior Project began in 2003 with a mission to make these veterans hole again.

“When we’re reunited in peace time it’s a very special feeling,” said Jeremiah Pauley, a spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Pauley says what started as handing out tee shirts and shorts to hospitalized veterans transformed into offering a multitude of services, from soldier rides, to helping veterans get back to work. Pauley says 16 years in, their operation is continually evolving.

“A lot of us feel alone and isolated because there’s a camaraderie that we share while serving in the military,” said Pauley.

The annual Washington area soldier ride concludes Friday in Virginia.