Simply surviving might be enough for someone who had been stabbed in the head.
But for Army sergeant Dan Powers, now almost fully recovered, the goal had always been the one he was about to achieve: jumping from an airplane.
Powers, 41, had been a skilled paratrooper, but after coming within inches of death in Iraq, he struggled even to walk and his return to the skies seemed out of reach.
"It was doubtful for a while, it really was. I didn't know," Powers said.
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ABC News first met airborne military police officer Powers in October 2007, while he was recuperating from an astonishing and severe combat injury.
On July 3, 2007, a teenage Iraqi insurgent had inched up behind Powers on a Baghdad street, plunging part of a 9-inch knife deep into his skull.
"Bam. A guy just nailed me in the head, came up behind me and got me good with the knife," Powers said.
At the time, Powers was not even aware that he had been stabbed. He felt the blow of a punch, he thought.
Another soldier reported the blunt truth.
"They said, 'You got a knife in your head,' and I kind of looked up and I was like, 'So I do,'" Powers recalled.
Incredibly, Powers remained alert as he was rushed to a combat hospital where surgeons -- at great risk -- removed the knife and saved his life.
"He is a walking miracle," said his wife Trudy Powers.
Powers said everyone is surprised by his recovery and his continued military service.
"I've been running into people that I served with in Iraq, and they're like, 'Wow, you're still here."
Since his injury, Powers has worked tirelessly to rejoin his fellow paratroopers of the 118th MP Company out of Fort Bragg. It took some convincing, but he was finally granted a green light from his doctors -- and his wife.
"It bothered me at first," Trudy Powers said. "I really thought he had kind of lost it, wanting to do it again. But then, this is, that was why he made it through all this, because he wanted to jump again."
"I love what I do, and I really love parachuting," Powers said simply.
Forty-three times before, Powers had exited an aircraft in flight. But this training jump would mean more than any other.
"It means my life has come full circle, and I am in the same place I was before I got hurt," he said.
Powers and fellow members of the 16th MP Brigade were briefed last week right before their training mission near Key West, Fla.
"You want to make sure when you hit the water, the chute falls to the back," said the brigade's commanding officer, Col. John Garity.
As the plane approached the drop zone, Powers was beaming.
Powers said he felt butterflies, as he always did before a jump.
"They said, 'stand by.' I said, "This is it. Here we go."
Garity was the first to jump. Two seconds later, Powers was aloft and feeling on top of the world. "My chute opened and there I was, hanging up at about 1000 feet. It was great."
Twenty-eight of Powers' fellow soldiers followed, dropping into the bay.
"When we hit the water, we both gave each other the thumbs up, and it was just an incredible feeling," Garrity said.
On shore, triumphant hugs and congratulations were exchanged.
"He has done more for this brigade than he will ever know," Garrity said. "Look to Dan Powers. Be like Dan Powers. Don't let the bad guy win."