Gardner is legally blind. He told News 3's Rachael Cardin about the injury he sustained in 2010 in Kajaki, Afghanistan, "We took incoming mortar fire and it impacted close. I was hit by a fragment of scrap metal which went through my left optic nerve and I had lasting damage to my right eye."
He wanted to remain in the Marine Corp., regardless of his impairment. Gardner lost his left eye and his right eye only allows blurry, black vision but he can still do his job.
"People have recovered from much worse and come back with much less and continue to do so much to inspire others," said Gardner, "Life is not always fair, gentle or nurturing, adversity can be expected, but what I tell my kids is that’s no reason to quit."
Gardner has four children with his wife, who was the tech that nursed him back to health after his injury. He said she is the glue of the family and the reason he can train and compete. "Blessed to be the environment I am in, the wife I married, the children I have and the people I have at work," said Gardner.
In late June/early July Gardner competed for the first time in the DoD Warrior Games. He came home with six medals, four gold and two silver.
Events ranged from discus and shot put to swimming. For Gardner, the experience was its own form of rehab, " The marines, sailors and soldiers around me that we compete with, I'm blessed to know, I'm inspired by all of them."
Those who look may see a crippling impairment but on the field Gardner feels stronger and able to do things he never thought possible. He uses that positive energy to encourage his four children who watch him train daily.
"Life is not always fair, gentle or nurturing, adversity can be expected, but what I tell my kids is that’s no reason to quit." he said.
Gardner has been invited to the Invictus Games in September. They will be held in Toronto, hosted by Britain's Prince Harry.
The sporting events are exciting, but for this marine its the camaraderie and comeback stories that make the experience worthwhile.
"Whether it’s a combat injury, what have you, amputees that are on their prosthetic for the first time. It’s a story of marines coming back from worse things to do great things," said Gardner.