TAMPA (FOX 13) - Alex Dillmann says he's lucky to have survived the horrors of war says he was able to fulfill his dream of starting a family, in spite of his injuries. But it wasn't easy.
In the past, retired, injured veterans were not eligible to financial help with things like in vitro fertilization (IVF) or adoption. A new law, however, helps couples like Alex and Holly Dillmann become parents.
The Dillmanns now have a 7-month-old son, Maximus, and he is the light of their life.
"You really get to appreciate life and how much... And it's just a miracle how it all comes together," Alex said.
But, they didn't know if this day would ever come.
Alex is a retired Army staff sergeant. He suffered life-changing injuries while deployed in Afghanistan six years ago. A roadside bomb punctured his lungs, shattered his legs and severed his spine. He was paralyzed from the abdomen down.
Following a two-year hospital stay to recover from those injuries, Alex and Holly wanted to start a family, but not right away.
"After injury, you're not really in a place to bring... It's difficult," said Alex.
"Even after we got out [of the hospital], we still weren't in any place to say, 'Hey, let's start our family,'" Holly recalled. "We needed to get time to... our new life with Alex being in a wheelchair... traveling in a wheelchair, Alex learning how to drive in a wheelchair."
Until recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs didn't cover the costs of in vitro fertilization for combat-wounded veterans. Last year, former President Barack Obama signed a bill that allows the VA to pay the costs. However, it will have to be revisited every two years, for now.
"I mean, these are services that make these men and women whole again," said Holly. "I mean, to be able to come home, you know, start a family and move on with their lives."
The Dillmanns went through three rounds of IVF before having their baby boy.
"To see where we're at now, it's like, it's unbelievable," said Holly. "It's just absolutely unbelievable to see them together, to see the joy that Alex gets with him."
"I don't know what's after this now," said Alex. "I mean, this is really, the American dream."
Now, they want to see a permanent solution so other families like them can also live the American dream.
"That's the hope, and dream of a lot people is to be able to start a family and pass on their legacy," said Holly. "It shouldn't be any different for the men and women who serve our country who have risked life and limb... They need to know that if this is... If they sustain these injuries to be able to start a family, that they're going to be able to have access to this treatment."
Maximus keeps the Dillmanns busy these days. His life is the most precious gift of their lives after the amount of suffering and struggling they went through to have him here today
"This is what it's about. Seeing him like this. Seeing the smile on your face and the sparkle in his eyes," Holly said to Alex. "I mean seeing him talk about Maximus this way. This is what it's all about."