U.S. Army Master Sergeant Cedric King keynoted CAR 2022 on March 23 with an inspiring and gritty account of his comeback from life-altering injuries in Afghanistan.  -  Photo: Ross Stewart / Stewart Digital Media

U.S. Army Master Sergeant Cedric King keynoted CAR 2022 on March 23 with an inspiring and gritty account of his comeback from life-altering injuries in Afghanistan.

Photo: Ross Stewart / Stewart Digital Media

Master Sergeant Cedric King can command plenty of real street cred when talking about hardship and resilience.

Amid enemy machine gun fire, the Army veteran stepped on a Taliban improvised explosive device (IED) on July 25, 2012 during a reconnaissance mission in an Afghan village. He awoke eight days later in the U.S. with a disfigured right hand and two legs that had to be amputated.

Twenty-one months later, he crossed the finish line of the 2014 Boston Marathon, carried on prosthetic blades, and has proceeded to run in the marathon six more times - except now he does it as an Ironman Triathlete.

“You have to be a fighter and stay in the game,” King told the IARA-CAR audience. “Don’t be managed by how you feel. Don’t be intimidated by how long the storm will last.”  -  Photo: Ross Stewart / Stewart Digital Media

“You have to be a fighter and stay in the game,” King told the IARA-CAR audience. “Don’t be managed by how you feel. Don’t be intimidated by how long the storm will last.”

Photo: Ross Stewart / Stewart Digital Media

A Hard Road to Recovery

How did King emerge victorious after a humbling two years spent reengineering and rebuilding a new life?

Therein lie lessons for everyone who faces setbacks, whether overwhelming or routine, and on March 24 he deployed his insights to an audience of business professionals at the Conference of Automotive Remarketing in Las Vegas. His keynote speech, arranged and hosted by the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance, resonated at the right time for an industry facing economic, supply chain, and geopolitical obstacles unlike any previous downturns.

“I’m so blessed,” he said as he walked onstage at the Caesars Palace conference center. He repeated the term “blessed” throughout his talk.

King was an Army Airborne Ranger, putting him in the top one percentile of the U.S. Army service ranks. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, and Legion of Merit. During a 20-year Army career, King racked up stellar credentials from the U.S. Army Jumpmaster Course, U.S. Army Pathfinder course, Air Assault course, and the U.S. Army Ranger Course.

All those merits and accolades paled in the aftermath of King's injuries when he had to learn how to walk again and how to fail. “It was a tough message to hear that my legs are gone. I had to ask, ‘Who am I now? My legs are gone. I was trained to defeat enemies. What am I without that?’”

King drew on his life-altering physical loss to share lessons on how to get through trying times. He dealt with failure in adjusting to his new prosthetics and equipment. He didn’t know anymore how to navigate those actions and activities he could no longer perform. He asked, what’s the use if you are constantly getting up and then falling down? What happens when efforts and plans aren’t working? When will it be over and get better?

“You have to be a fighter and stay in the game,” he advised. “Don’t be managed by how you feel. Don’t be intimidated by how long the storm will last.”

King put CAR attendee Nick Miota, president and owner of Southgate Lease Services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through a series of push-ups during his presentation, except he didn't reveal how many he would have to do.  -  Photo: Ross Stewart / Stewart Digital Media

King put CAR attendee Nick Miota, president and owner of Southgate Lease Services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through a series of push-ups during his presentation, except he didn't reveal how many he would have to do.

Photo: Ross Stewart / Stewart Digital Media

Strengthing from Every Storm

King referenced supply chains and inventory shortages as the storms now facing the vehicle consignment and auction sectors. “As tough as it is, it’s teaching you how to last in future storms,” he said. “Thank God it’s tough because it gives you staying power. I thank God every day for it; not for the artificial legs, but for the strength he puts inside me to use these and still smile about it.”

He asked, “Can you smile on the inside? In these moments, please understand you have a role to smile, bless others, and encourage others.” One way King gets a smile or even a laugh is through his humor: He joked about how schoolchildren ask him how to get a pair of “those robot legs,” adding he replies, “Oh you really don’t want that.”

Being able to give to others during storms supplied King staying power and eased the strenuous path of rehabilitation. “Storms will test the parts of you that question if you can make it. Your job is to give the best you can give. In the face of adversity, can you be cheerful and help others? Can you bless other people? Can you put arms around someone else who is hurting?”

Master Sergeant Cedric King authored a book in 2018, “The Making Point: How to Succeed When You're at Your Breaking Point.”

When struck by a storm that brings lasting changes, the instinct is to do things the way you did them before, King said, referencing his inability to swim after losing his legs. “I was struggling, fighting the water, going down and coming up in the middle of the pool. Are you so persistent and fierce about what you want that you are willing to look bad at it to be good at it?”

Final tests come in a way that requires even more staying power, he said. A season of hardship never indicates or tells you when it will end. “You need to navigate this story without any idea when this will be over. Only by giving to others when you have nothing left in the tank enables you to carry your job and be positive throughout the day.”

King developed as a fighter through his experiences training and serving in combat. He recalled his first day in combat: "Tomorrow morning you will be attacked. They see us getting on that helicopter and you getting off. Do they know you are a fighter?" Show what kind of fight you have inside of you, and respond with all you have, he said. 

He referenced the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a catastrophic event that demonstrates such power. “Ukraine is showing us what it looks like to be a fighter and go down with everything you got. They give us incredible inspiration.”

While you don’t get the conditions you want in life, you can choose how you respond and handle them, King said. “Can you celebrate what life is giving you right now? In this season, you may not be in perfect circumstances, but if you have strength to celebrate life in the moment, you’ll summon the circumstances you want.”

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