Do you remember what you were doing on September 7, 2010? Unless a major milestone in your life took place, probably not. Kionte Storey remembers that date as if it was the same day that you are reading this right now. Storey was serving America as a member of the Marine Corps, and he was on a mission in the Middle Easy. It was his second tour of duty, after serving in Iraq the year prior.
After three of his fellow Marines surveyed a building on a mission in Afghanistan, he went in to check things out for himself. With one step, Storey’s life changed forever, and it could’ve ended.
“We were trying to be radio silent. So, I went in the building, and mind you 12 or so other individuals walked in the building before I did,” he said. “There was an IED three steps in that somehow no one else stepped on, or somehow stepped over. You can’t really say no one stepped on it.”
Unfortunately for Kionte Storey, he did, and his right leg took the most significant damage. In spite of what just happened, his Marine Corps instincts took over, remembering to control his breathing so his heart rate wouldn’t go faster, and remaining calm while the other team members determined the best way to get him to safety. There is a good chance that his decisions in that moment could’ve saved his own life.
“It was hanging on by flesh, and then my team got me out,” said Storey. He was the only person injured. Even though Storey was able to survive and recover over the next two years, it was obvious that his active military career, which started in 2007, was over. Storey was honored by receiving the Purple Heart for his sacrifice and commitment to freedom and his country.
What may have been just as hard for Kionte Storey was the recovery process. He was on several medications to help him deal with the pain, and adapt to a new life as an amputee. The medications ended up having a strong side effect that he didn’t want. He was feeling depressed, using the medicine to cope instead of heal, and his mindset was in a dark place.
“I found myself abusing pain medication to numb myself from my thoughts. Eventually, I recognized that this isn’t the life I want to live, and this isn’t me,” he stated. 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, who he considers his mom. She went on to adopt him and make it official. Because of his biological mother’s struggle with drugs, he didn’t want to find himself in a similar situation.
“I flushed my pain meds down the toilet and pursued what I wanted to be doing: being active and traveling, I quit them cold turkey.”
Fitness wasn’t a part of Storey’s life growing up, but it was about to become a huge part of it going forward. He started training in several endeavors, including track and field. What he actually found himself thriving at was sprinting. He trained for several major competitions, including the Warrior Games and the Paralympics. He also developed another passion – mountain climbing. In 2013, Storey traveled to Antartica and climbed Mount Vinson Massif, one of the world’s seven summits. He was questioning himself as he was moving forward, but he never gave up.
“I was either going to get to the summit or die trying,” Storey proclaimed. “I knew that I had it in me. I was thinking of those guys that served before me that died, and that motivated me to keep going.”
One can only imagine what the world looked like from the top of that mountain. Storey described the moment he stood at the peak as a turning point in his life. “It’s still my number one thing for me because that changed everything. I felt I could do anything and that I wouldn’t let my injury define me.”
Kionte Storey would also climb Mt. Kilimanjaro successfully later on, and he has set a goal to climb all seven summits someday. It won’t be an overnight process, but he is confident that he can do it thanks to his success with the first two mountains.
Storey’s most recent athletic feat came when competed in 2022 Invictus Games, representing Team US. He walked away with two gold medals and one silver medal while competing in track. He explained the feeling of representing his country as an athlete.
“It feels amazing. Showing the world not only what I could do, but what anyone can do while recovering from injuries or disabilities, was amazing. 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 competing.
“The real key takeaway was meeting other individuals who had their own disabilities and injuries from all walks of life. Seeing how inspirational we all are and we’ve all managed to continue pushing forward was a testament to the human spirit.”
Today, Storey is currently a full-time student, working to attain his Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology. He hopes that it will parlay into a career in physical therapy. At the end of the day, Storey’s heroism, ability to overcome adversity, and pursuit of athletic greatness has inspired many people over the years, and it continues to do so today. To be clear, he sees himself as an athlete, and he trains for the next goal without letting his prosthetic leg serve as a crutch.
“I am a person who wants to pursue the next athletic endeavor and take on the next challenge. I don’t let my prosthetic define me or let my injury define me. I continue to challenge myself each day in every way that I can.”
You can follow Kionte on Instagram @kiontestorey