30 April 2013

First Amputee Warrior Completes Air Assault School

In this undated photo provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. 1st Class Greg Robinson, an amputee, runs during the Sabalauski Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Ky. Robinson graduated from the 10-day course on Monday, April 29, 2013, and is the first amputee to have completed the course. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — Sgt. 1st Class Greg Robinson has become the first amputee to complete Army air assault school, a course so grueling his prosthetic leg broke twice over the 10 days spent rappelling down ropes, navigating obstacle courses and completing strenuous road marches.

Each year thousands of soldiers are physically and mentally tested at the Fort Campbell school. Instructors said Robinson accomplished everything other participants did and trainers cut him no slack even though he lost part of his right leg on a deployment to Afghanistan in 2006.

When Robinson joined teammates at a brief graduation ceremony Monday at the Sabalauski Air Assault School, others called his success a testament to what can be achieved by amputees.

Robinson was wounded in 2006 during an attack while on a major military operation. But he said his traumatic injury wasn't going to prevent him from meeting some of the Army's toughest standards or finishing his career in the Army.

"It's not my job; it's my lifestyle," said Robinson, who has deployed four times in his 16 years in the military.

The 101st Airborne Division — unlike other airborne units in planes — uses helicopters to quickly drop troops into combat and move equipment on the battlefield.

Each day of the course began with running a couple of miles. Troops were expected to carry a 35-pound ruck sack as they complete their tasks. Though he ran with a noticeable limp, his boot and trousers covered his prosthetic leg and generally made him indistinguishable from the others. He also learned to rappel from a tower and maneuver past obstacles.

Robinson said he decided about six months ago to take on the program, though he had to get a doctor's approval. Now he hopes his accomplishment will encourage other wounded soldiers with their recoveries.

"It's not a disability if you don't let it slow you down," he said.

His instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Connolly, said there was some concern at one point whether he was going to make it through when a piston in his leg stopped working on the obstacle course.

"He got down and fixed it, reattempted the obstacle and went back on," Connolly said.

Sgt. First Class Greg Robinson, 34, of 101st Airborne Division, greets fellow soldiers on Monday, April 29, 2013, at Fort Campbell, Ky., after graduating from air assault school. He lost a lower portion of his right leg in Afghanistan in 2006 and is the first amputee to graduate from the grueling Sabalauski Air Assault School. (AP Photo/Kristin M. Hall)

Much more and additional photos at the link.

25 April 2013

"This isn't the end. This is the beginning."

Tissue alert.

Marine Wounded Warriors visited Boston Marathon bombing victims at Boston Medical Center April 21

The two Wounded Warriors shared their upbeat attitudes with mother and daughter, Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, on life after experiencing a traumatic event.

Celeste lost both legs, something Sgt. Gabe Martinez, a combat engineer who lost both legs in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010, and Capt. Cameron West, who also lost a leg in battle, could empathize. Sydney, her daughter, sustained shrapnel wounds to the arteries in her legs.

“I can’t do anything right now,” Celeste told the Marines, fighting tears as she looked at her legs.

“I can’t believe it’s the same,” she said as she observed the wounds she shared with Martinez, who wouldn’t let her lose faith in spite of the circumstances.

“After this, you’ll be more independent than you ever were,” said Martinez. “This isn’t the end. This is the beginning.”

What a great thing for those Marines to do. Semper Fi!

Looking for Veterans of the Normandy Invasion

"Normandy Invasion", photo by Tom Keyser.

As many of you know, my sister Jeannine Edwards works as a sideline reporter and analyst for ESPN. She's been involved in thoroughbred horse racing for over 20 years and will be covering the Derby this year, as always, although NBC is broadcasting the actual race.

She has a special request:

A horse owner I know, Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm, has a horse in the Kentucky Derby this year named "Normandy Invasion". Rick is a true Patriot and actually went to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of the invasion. He said it gives you chills to see it.

He would like to do something special at the Derby. He's trying to find any surviving vets who were in the Normandy invasion and invite them to Churchill Downs as his guests for the race. He's already been already contacted by 2 guys but would love to have more. This could be a very neat thing.

FYI, Rick almost got out of racing entirely in 2008 when his filly Eight Belles broke both her front legs after finishing 2nd in the Derby. Most tragic thing I've ever seen. It nearly destroyed him; he's a real animal lover. I'd like to help him with this.

If you know anyone who is interested, and preferably lives in the Kentucky area (although others considered), please contact Rick Porter directly at rporter@foxhillfarmstable.com The Derby is May 4.

Rick Porter, photo by Anne M. Eberhardt.

Update, 4 May: Watch the Veterans meet Normandy Invasion at Churchill Downs.

17 April 2013

Veterans, combat medicine, and the Boston Marathon bombing

Tough Ruck soldiers clearing a path to victims. Photo: Military Friends Foundation.

These soldiers, participating in "Tough Ruck 2013," were running the Boston Marathon to honor comrades killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, or lost to suicide and PTSD-related accidents after coming home.

When the explosion went off, Lieutenant Stephen Fiola of the 1060th Transportation Company and his group immediately went into tactical mode. "Myself and two other soldiers, my top two guys in my normal unit, crossed the street about 100 yards to the metal scaffoldings holding up the row of flags. We just absolutely annihilated the fence and pulled it back so we could see the victims underneath. The doctors and nurses from the medical tent were on the scene in under a minute. We were pulling burning debris off of people so that the medical personnel could get to them and begin triage."

Much more here.

Carlos Arredondo, center, runs with other responders with an injured man in a wheel chair past the finish line the 2013 Boston Marathon following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo: CHARLES KRUPA/AP

One of the Tough Ruck Soldiers was running for Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo, who was killed in Iraq in 2004 while fighting in Najaf. His brother later took his own life in grief. Carlos Arredondo and his wife, Melida, were waiting for that runner at the finish line when the bombs went off. Carlos Arredondo immediately ran across Boylston Street, jumped the security fence, and helped the wounded.

Meanwhile, medical lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq are being used to help the Boston Marathon bombing victims:

The two bomb blasts that ripped through the finish line area at Monday's Boston Marathon have caused mayhem and injuries similar to those seen during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army medical experts said Tuesday.

But lessons learned during the past 10 years of war may also help the injured in Boston, they said.

The blasts killed three people and wounded more than 170. Injured runners and spectators sustained broken bones and head injuries. Some of the victims have had limbs amputated.

People who witnessed the blasts but escaped injury could also be affected by acute stress in the first few days and post-traumatic stress disorder in the long term, experts said.

"It's tragic," said Lt. Col. Brian Sonka, a surgeon and trauma medical director at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. "It sounds to me like the injuries may mirror the injuries we see overseas in the combat hospitals."

During the past decade, the Army has learned several important lessons during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those are being applied to the situation in Boston, Sonka said.

"In the past 10 years, there has been a revolution in the way we manage massive hemorrhaging," Sonka said. It started with work done at the Ibn Sina hospital in Iraq and has now become common practice.

And finally, there's this open letter from a wounded warrior seen at The Boys of 3/5 Facebook page.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WOUNDED OF BOSTON - As a veteran, double amputee, and fellow Massachusetts resident, I'd like to offer my condolences and deepest sympathy to the families of the victims of yesterday's attack. I'd also like to offer words of comfort and support to those whose lives were forever changed yesterday by traumatic loss of limbs. Although it's undeniably tragic , you will recover. And you must have hope that this terrible trauma will in no way stop you from living a full and productive life. In fact, this will be a defining moment in your life. In the coming days, weeks, and months, you will find a strength and resilience you never knew you had. Take solace in the fact that we, in the veteran community are recovering with you. Look to the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost limbs for support and inspiration.

- Army Sergeant Peter Damon, double amputee and accomplished painter