JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- He wanted to be president of the United States. But in a matter of seconds, a terrible accident changed that dream for Terry Smith.
Years later, Smith continues to deal with the severe complications of a traumatic brain injury - something he calls a silent epidemic. He isn't keeping quiet though, and is using a book to spread the word on his never ending healing process and hope along the way.
Every day of his life, Smith hears an uninvited and unplanned orchestra inside his head. "I can hear this loud heartbeat along with the tinnitus, the loud ahhhhhh," said Smith.
Smith has no choice but to listen. They're the result of traumatic brain injury but he calls his story one of survival that started in July 1984.
"Traveling 65 miles per hour around the curves of Quantico, Virginia," said Smith.
Smith was one of 20 Marine officer candidates in the back of a three-ton truck that flipped and rolled several times.
"Throwing Marines along the road, killing a Marine," said Smith.
Smith's skull was crushed in the crash. Part of him died that day, he said. "The part of me that died was my dream," he said.
The military was supposed to be a stepping stone into the U.S. Senate, followed by the White House. "I literally wanted to be commander-in-chief of the USA," said Smith.
But life expectations changed with his injury. "There's the memory problem, the seizure disorder," said Smith.
There's also anxiety and anger.
"At the drop of a hat, I can just be in a rage, pounding on the floor with a hurt arm because the anger comes from nowhere sometimes."
But in the midst of all of that, Smith is on a new path, telling his story and hearing ones of those with similar circumstances.
"You have a path that you're on, then all of a sudden, your head injury happens," said Smith.
Smith reaches out to TBI survivors at Brooks Clubhouse in Jacksonville. "It's a place where people come together to help themselves and to help others," said Brooks Clubhouse Manager Kathy Martin.
At Brooks, clients are able to enhance their quality of life emotionally and physically. Martin hopes a visit from Smith will help inspire them.
"The things that he experienced and survived and suffered through and goes on today to inspire others, is an amazing thing," said Martin.
It can help others like David Asselta, whose jeep fell 16,000 feet from the side of a mountain. "I cracked my skull from ear-to-ear," said Asselta.
He's since learned how to talk and walk again, and become independent. Even so, any new bit of encouragement helps.
"As I was listening to Terry, I felt a bond between us," said Asselta.
That's part of Terry Smith's goal. "Give you hope and let you know that you're not alone and you can get through this."
Not only get through it, Smith said, but remembering how it feels to live. "Inhaling, exhaling, being alive in the physical world because some people die with their eyes open," he said.
The book of life is far from closed for Smith. This chapter could be called "Hero By Accidental Circumstances"
"Surviving Head Trauma" is Smith's third book. He's also written for several popular television shows and even a movie-- proof that there can be life after brain trauma.
First Coast News