|SGM Chuck Yerry with MG Livingston|
During the surge of 2005, I was serving in a SOF unit in the Iraqi Western Desert when I was shot above my right knee. The damage was so severe that I lost my leg above the knee. Where the majority of amputees have phantom limb pain during the first year of recovery, for most, the phantom pain goes away. I am one of the 3% of the worlds amputee population where the phantom pain actually gets worse and I am still in incredible pain 24/7. It is as if I was getting shot all day long.
Being part of the US Special Operations Command Care Coalition Alumni, I would receive offers to attend events like skiing, hunting, boating, water sports, and other activities to support good health both mentally and physically on our road to recovery for my family and I. I refused all of them because as a senior NCO, I believed that these events should be focused on the younger troops. I was in bad shape mentally, but my command kept me involved for many years in mid-level management positions to let me stay in the fight.
Two years ago, I received an event participation request on something that was different. Task Force Dagger Foundation was sponsoring a 3-Gun Wounded Warrior Team in Kentucky and the first four volunteers would get the slots. You didn't need to know anything about the sport because they were providing the gear, guns, and most importantly, coaches to get you through the week successfully with a promise that we would enjoy the event. The invitation also included your family as well. I stared at the email for at least an hour contemplating two things: one, was I worthy enough to attend an event like this with my wounded warrior brothers; two, could I keep up? I did this sort of thing for a living for over twenty years with some of the best shooters in the world, but without the mobility, would I just be a joke? Was this going to be a dog and pony sympathy event with the theme of, "Poor wounded Soldiers trying so hard to be normal." I decided to give it a shot and brought my now ex-wife with me (another story for another time...). I literally and figuratively had a blast.
The guys I was with all wanted to be a part of like minded guys and not only for the shooting,but for the second and third order of effects: being able to talk shop in between stages. Over a three-day period, we hung out day and night, all strangers in the beginning, but with one common bond: we were all assigned to Army Special Operations Forces (SOF). That was it! Some were Rangers, Some Special Forces, some other units from Army SOF. Both wounded and coaches (the incredible guys from our units that volunteered their own free time to shlep gear and teach us the ways). Some were in professional shooting teams that could have shot with their own professional teams, but no, they gave up that to help us enjoy our time and be treated like rock stars.
So what did I get out of it then and to this day? No judgement for one thing. No, "poor guys." We were surrounded with men we fought with and had that common theme of we are brothers in misery. I can honestly say that whenever I'm around these guys, the no peer pressure, pressure made me step up and represent.
|Chuck Yerry shooting a pistol stage|
|Chuck moving through a stage|
I hope to continue this endeavor with TFD as both a shooter and now as a mentor as well as being more involved with the whole non-profit on all their incredible adventures to help our SOF Soldiers and their Families as they get through those tough spots in their lives and the demons that have to face. The one sure thing is that TFD will be there with an unblinking eye ready to provide support when required.
SGM (Ret) Chuck Yerry.
Til next time...