Face of Defense: Guardsman Takes First Jump With Prosthetic
By Army 1st Lt. David Leiva
Mississippi National Guard
GRENADA, Miss., Aug. 10, 2010 Faced with a long recovery and the reality that he might never run, surf or return to his Special Forces team, Army Staff Sgt. Andre Murnane made the decision last year to have his right leg amputated below the knee after it was shattered by a roadside bomb that detonated in eastern Afghanistan.
Army Staff Sgt. Andre Murnane of the Maryland National Guard is all smiles in Grenada, Miss., after being the first National Guard Special Forces soldier to jump with a prosthetic, Aug. 1, 2010. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. David Leiva
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"My dreams and ambitions didn't end that day. It simply started a new chapter," the Maryland National Guard soldier said.
And a new breakthrough.
Murnane, 28, of Salisbury, Md., entered Green Beret lore this month when he became the first Army National Guard Special Forces soldier with a prosthetic leg to jump out of an aircraft. Army doctors cleared him to jump in June.
While several Special Forces soldiers with prosthetics have completed airborne operations, Murnane is the first National Guardsman to do so.
Murnane admitted he felt nervous about the historic jump that took place here Aug. 1. And he was a bit worried about the prosthetic leg shifting from the opening shock of the parachute and how it would hold up when he landed.
"It held just fine with new prosthetic technology and some good old-fashioned duct tape," he said. "Once I was under canopy, my thoughts shifted to the two runways that were on the drop zone. I barely cleared one of them by 15 or 20 meters. Just before landing, I wondered what it was going to feel like, but I just kept telling myself, ‘Feet and knees together, and relax.’"
In October, the communications sergeant from Bravo Company of 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, was on a combat operation on a mountain when a pressure-plate bomb detonated while his team was clearing an area after being ambushed. He was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he underwent several surgeries to repair his right foot and ankle. It was there where he realized the surgeries would never completely restore his leg. He has taken it all in stride, though.
"Life is a journey, and the journey is the destination,” he said. “You have to accept change in your life and continue to live it like you did before. It takes some extra work, but if you train hard and stay motivated, you can do anything you want to.”