Sergeant Discovers Strength Through Adversity
12/5/2014 – TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Annie Murphy Paul wrote, “To be mentally tough is to resist the urge to give up in the face of failure, to maintain focus and determination in pursuit of one’s goals, and to emerge from adversity even stronger than before.”
While attending Army Airborne, I was completing a combat static-line jump from an aircraft. As I attempted to exit the aircraft, I handed off the cable which activates the parachute release. During this process, my ruck sack got caught on the doorway and it spun me around which forced me to exit the aircraft backward. This caused the static line to wrap around my leg and snapped my femur in four locations. The parachute engulfed my body and wrapped around my neck which began to choke me.
Luckily, I was able to dislodge the parachute, pull my reserve, unload my weapon and ruck sack, before landing in an abandoned field.
The medical crew responded to the situation and moved me via a flat-board stretcher because the ambulance could not access the field. Before I could get in the ambulance, the doctor said he had to straighten my leg because he was worried the bone might cut into the femoral artery which could cause me to bleed out. After a few moments of passing in and out, the doctor straightened my leg and gave me morphine afterwards to dull the pain.
Upon waking up in the intensive care unit, my life was forever changed. The doctor’s performed major surgery and inserted a titanium rod which extends from my hip to knee with screws holding it in place at each end. Prior to this event, I relied heavily on my athletic ability and the doctor’s told me I might not have a full recovery. How could I remain in the military and perform my duties with a limited physical capacity? How could I provide for my family if I could not recover? All of these questions and challenges surrounded me and I wasn’t sure how to respond or react.
I found the answer through resiliency. I made a choice to fight and learn how to walk again. I also realized, as I was lying in bed one day, in life physical attributes would eventually deteriorate. After they deteriorated, what was I going to be left with?
The answer was my mind. So, off to college I went. As much as I thought I could never handle college work or the requirements needed to graduate, I decided to give it a try.
After a lot of years, I finally graduated with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Life is filled with obstacles and you are judged on how you effectively or ineffectively respond. Find an outlet, be passionate about your goals and never give up until you reach them.
Commentary by Senior Master Sgt. Jamie Auger
571st Contingency Response Group
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