“How many in this room know someone who is a purple heart award recipient?”
That was the question Robi Powers of American300, asked 40 members of the 553rd CSSB, JTF 6 (6th Trans BN), and 230th Sustainment Brigade staff Combat Services Sustainment Battalion, today in the Middle East.
“I don’t want to go beyond ‘purple heart’ right now, but I wanted you all to confirm visually something I’ve been telling Mike, Levi and Glenn about the approximate numbers of troops effected by personal injury or friends who have been.”
Of the 40 troops in the room close to 30 hands went in the air, a percentage that Powers says he sees at bases all over the world while on Armed Forces Entertainment Tours.
“It’s important to understand, we have troops performing at such a high standard, while dealing with an underlying ‘hurt’ that comes from having dealt with personal injury or the injury (and of course death) of a combat buddy.” says Powers, “ I can’t run away from it, so instead I'm trying to put it on the table and talk about it, today's 70+ percent of hands that went up is spot on with what I'm seeing at remote and combat bases all over the world." he added.
Armed Forces Entertainment is helping Powers and American300 talk about resiliency building in all its forms, all over the world this year through a series of small group ‘resiliency engagements' with our troops.
This month the theme is ESPN’s X Games and X Games gold medalists Levi LaVallee and Mike Schultz along with LaVallee’s crew chief Glenn Kafka. Together the 3 ESPN XGames Greats have 10 gold and silver medals, that they’re sharing with the troops, along with personal stories.
In the case of Mike Schultz, perseverance doesn’t begin to describe the uphill battle that he faced when during a snowmobile snocross race two years ago (motocross style racing on snow) he injured his left leg to the point where it had to be amputated above the knee. “It hit me like a ton of bricks” says Schultz, who after learning how to walk again chose to resume with the sport of snocross and motocross dirtbike racing, only to find out that there weren’t any prosthetics capable of allowing him to compete in the sports he loves so much.
Instead of quitting, Schultz went to his garage... and started developing an extreme sports prosthetic capable of withstanding the rigors of snocross. “I knew I needed a leg that could withstand a drop from 6 feet... so that’s exactly what I did... built prototypes, climbed up a ladder and jumped off... it took a while, but my new leg and I are living proof that the ‘MotoKnee’ works.” With patents in hand, Schultz is now producing the MotoKnee through his company Biodapt, for amputees who want to ‘Look Forward... Not Give Up’ says Schultz. For his part he has done the same, having raised the bar on what above knee amputees are capable of to include competing head to head with athletes in sports ranging from extreme motocross and snocross to wake boarding and snow skiing to name a few. “This MotoKnee is going to create a reclassification by the ParaOlympic Rules Committee, in skiing...” commented Powers in front of a group of service members “Right now Mike would have to compete with amputees who have lost a foot, even though he is an above knee amputee... he’s simply capable of using both of this legs in a way that is so darn close to non injured athletes” he added.
“It’s not like I don’t have to make adjustments, but the most important message that I’m bringing to the Troops is that we are making progress, life doesn’t end for amputees, it just goes through a ‘reset’ ... there’s always something to look forward to” says Schultz.
Looking forward was exactly what Schultz was doing as he drove a 30 ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) US Army vehicle around this evening, a ride that the Chief Warrant Officer who served as Mike’s instructor said went off without incident. “I could tell he kept wanting to go faster, but he managed to hold back on turning his test drive into X Games” said the Warrant Officer. “That is one sweet rig, I wonder how much air you can catch in one” said Schultz after the test drive through his signature infectious grin.
The Tour Continues...
For more information on the Department of Defense Office Armed Forces Entertainment go to:
For complete Photos, Videos and Stories on this first ever X Games Medalist Troop Tour please visit: www.American300.org