'It's not over': first below-the-knee amputee C-17 pilot proves life isn't over.
McGuire had dreamed of a career in aviation since he was a child. When he was in high school, he decided to become an Air Force pilot. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and went on to initial pilot training after graduation in 2008.
While attending training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, an accident occurred, changing the lieutenant's life and threatening to shatter his life-long dream.
During Labor Day weekend of 2009, McGuire and some friends went boating on a local lake. On their way back to the marina, there was no room in the boat for the inner tube so McGuire held it. The tube, which was tied to the boat, was picked up by the wind and snatched from the boat. The rope became taut around McGuire's leg. He was slammed into the side of the boat, breaking his pelvis and dislocating his hip, before being dragged out of the boat and into the water.
After his rescue, McGuire was transported to then-Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, to be treated for his injuries. There, he underwent treatment for his broken pelvis, severe rope burn and arterial damage to his leg. Because of severe nerve damage, doctors amputated half of his foot and eventually his leg below the knee.
The lieutenant admits during this time he did have moments of darkness and despair, but he never lost his will to become an Air Force pilot.
"I remember thinking, 'My entire life is over,'" McGuire said. "'I'm not going to be able to be in the Air Force. I've wanted to be a pilot since I was little, and now it's over.' There's nothing that can really motivate you out of that until you go to rehab and you see other people that are further down the line in the recovery process than you. That's what I hope I can do for others."
Before the accident, McGuire was a sports enthusiast and he used this enthusiasm on his road to recovery. McGuire set a goal of being able to do everything he could before the accident. That goal included running a marathon.
"My therapist and I flew to Dayton, Ohio, to do the Air Force Marathon," McGuire said. "She and I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand. We did that in less than five hours. That was a really cool motivator that I could officially do everything I did before the accident."
With his personal challenge completed, McGuire still faced the challenge of proving he was fit for duty in the Air Force.
"The medical board declared me unfit for duty initially, he said. "My commanders and I appeared before the formal medical board and told them why I thought I should stay in the Air Force. I had to show them that I was just as fit as any Airman. I passed my physical fitness test with about a 92. Then they decided I could stay in the Air Force. That was in August of 2010. We filed the waiver to fly the next day. Within a month, we got the word that they approved the waiver to fly. That was on a Friday and on Monday I was back in pilot training."
Now McGuire is a C-17 Globemaster III pilot assigned to the 4th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and is the first below-the-knee amputee to earn the title.
"I'm flying missions all around the world and it's been awesome, McGuire said.
"My commander said I know you're going to like flying C-17s because you'll be able to (medically evacuate) someone who may have lost a leg or something, and you'll be showing them that you got back in the Air Force and now you're flying multimillion dollar aircraft," he said. "That will be really cool just as a motivator to show (them) that's it's not over."
by Tech. Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
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|Title Annotation:||Ryan McGuire|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2012|
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