Retired Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw was serving his third combat tour in June 2012 when he encountered an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan's deadly Helmand province that took out his right eye and severely damaged his left.
Doctors said he'd never see again, but Crenshaw regained sight in his left eye after undergoing several surgeries and receiving specialized contact lenses. Four months later, fitted with a glass eye and his signature eye patch, Crenshaw was back on the shooting range in Mississippi, training to rejoin his teammates.
Crenshaw, who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and held leadership posts in Bahrain and South Korea before medically retiring in 2016, is now battling for a seat in the U.S. House.
"What makes me get up in the morning is knowing I'm doing something for the country and I was not ready to quit that," Crenshaw said. "I think this is why I'm driven to Congress now, because it's another path I can take to make a positive impact on people's lives and serve in a way that is meaningful and push for values that I believe in."
Crenshaw is one of nine candidates competing in Texas's March 9 Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Poe, who represents the state's 2nd congressional district. He is also one of three military veterans running for the seat, joined by retired Army 2nd Lt. Jonny Havens, who deployed twice to Iraq, and Jon Spiers, who served as a surgeon in the Army Reserves.
Crenshaw said his recent deployments to the Middle East and South Korea set him apart from the crowded field and give him unique insight into pressing national security challenges such as the proliferation of weapons by Iran and North Korea and the ongoing threat of Islamic terrorism.
He lauded President Donald Trump's strong-arm approach to North Korea, which he described as the top threat facing the United States.
"We have to jolt the system a little bit," Crenshaw said. "As crazy as the rhetoric sounds to a lot of people, [Trump] has to provide that credible threat in order to bring the Chinese onboard to pressure North Korea and really make some changes with the regime's behavior."
Crenshaw, who received his master's degree in public administration at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said in addition to foreign threats, Americans need protection from high taxes, overregulation, and government infringement on freedoms such as the right to bear arms.
"The swamp needs credibility," he said. "Our vision should be one of optimism, one of limited government, where we first ask what we can do for our community and our country and not the other way around. That's the true essence of conservatism."