ABC7 News one such young man three years ago: marine corporal Jason Poole.
For Jason pole, a sudden, irreversible event separates his past and future. The only common tread that links the two is his attitude.
"Before that, the blast, I was a very positive person and the blast happened and nothing changed," said Poole.
There is no mistaking what has changed. Jason was 17 when he joined the Marines right out of high school. He was hoping to later go to college and maybe become a teacher, but the war on terror doesn't follow a script.
Just ten days before his tour was over in Iraq, a roadside bomb exploded while Jason was on patrol near the Syrian border. The date was June 30th, 2004.
ABC7 News first met Jason in October of 2005. He was living at the Veteran's Affairs Health Care System in Palo Alto.
The rebuilding process took hundreds of hours of therapy and seven painful surgeries.
"It involved having to put in extra bone around his forehead and do a lot of reconstruction around his eyes and his checks and his mouth," said Paul Johnson from VA Health Care System.
Today Jason lives in his own apartment in Mountain View. He has his independence but there are limitations.
"I'm blind in left eye, I'm deaf in my left ear. I have shrapnel all over my body," said Poole.
The body and life Jason knew is framed and hanging on his living room wall. It's his retired football jersey from Cupertino high.
Three days a week, Jason is on the campus of De Anza College. He works on regaining some of his physical strength, but mostly it's an effort to relearn what his mind lost, skills such as reading, writing and spelling. It is at his own pace with the help of tutors.
Wherever he is, Jason will tell you he enjoys the journey.
At age 25, Jason is very active. He even participated this month at the winter sports clinic in Colorado for disabled veterans.
"I'm getting better, a little better but you know what I still suck but hey it's still cool laugh," said Poole.
What's truly cool is that Jason has found love, and Angela Eastman has found him. They've been together for more than a year.
"All the time, every day he tells me he loves me and I love his personality, he's just a funny guy you know and he's sweet to me," said Jason's girlfriend Angela Eastman.
For Jason, the past is where it belongs. He is living in the present with a glimpse of his future.
"We're going to get married, have some kids then we're going to live old you know and it's just that to me is perfect," said Poole.