On October 9, 2015 I had the special privilege to be able to address the 3rd Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry, Warriors Transition Battalion on Fort Drum. Fort Drum is the home of the 10th Mountain Division, which is the most deployed division in the Army. The invitation was extended to me by the Battalion Chaplain Peter Bahng, who had stopped at the Handihelp display in August during the Outdoor Adventure Day on post.
Friday began with the luncheon at which time I had the opportunity to speak to many of the wounded Soldiers personally in an informal setting. A display board was set up containing pictures of some of the different activities I have engaged in and a digital picture frame showing adaptions from Handihelp.net was also running. My wife Marge and I had an opportunity during the luncheon to sit and chat with a Lieutenant Colonel Johnson the Battalion Commander and his wife.
My talk was held in the post-main chapel and there were over 100 people present. This included not only the Soldiers and their families, but also nurses and support staff. There were displays of adaptions I had made that allow me to continue to pursue the activities that give me quality of life. Since I knew I had no real understanding of what they had been through, I spoke about my accident, the struggles and challenges I have faced over the past 16 years and lessons I have learned that have enabled me to regain quality of life. We spoke about the personal inner strength that exists in each and every one of us and if there were any doubts I mentioned a few individuals who had not only risen above catastrophic injuries, but even went on to inspire others. Individuals like John McCain, JR Martinez, Bob Woodruff and Gabby Giffords to mention just a few.
A PowerPoint presentation was then used to visually reinforce some of the ideas and concepts we were talking about. In telling them what I had learned from my struggles with quadriplegia I mentioned the following:
* Your mind is a powerful asset use it
* Recovery and return are a process and so will take time
* There is more than one way to solve a problem
* Know there is a way that will work
* Try to keep solutions simple
* Don’t get discouraged and give up
* Think of failure as an opportunity for learning and growth
* Think outside the box
* Be willing to change and modify
* Be open to the suggestions, ideas and help from others
* Empowerment or helplessness is a choice
In conclusion, the fact is that while we have little control over what happened to us, we have a lot of control over what we do about it. What I had showed them was not to show what I and others had done, but rather to help them realize the potential of what CAN be done by anyone who is willing to commit themselves.
Let me finish by saying what an inspiring group of men and women this was. We can all be proud of these Soldiers and the sacrifices they and their families have made for America and our way of life.