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Face of Defense: Amputee to Return to Pilot Training

By Joel Langton
47th Flying Training Wing

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Nov. 2, 2010 – A Laughlin officer who lost much of his right leg after a boating accident got word last week that he’ll soon return to pilot training here.

Since his accident nearly 14 months ago, Air Force 1st Lt. Ryan McGuire has completed rehabilitation using his prosthetics, completed the Air Force Marathon and competed in the Warrior Games. Since July, he's been back on duty here, but not in pilot training.

"When I first lost my leg, I never dreamed this day would come," McGuire said. "But leadership here has supported me every step of the way, and honestly, they're the ones who gave me this dream to come back."

Air Force Col. Michael Frankel, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, said it was a no-brainer to support McGuire in his efforts.

"When I first met Lieutenant McGuire, it was obvious that this young man is something special," Frankel said. "He has always had a positive attitude. I've never seen him down, never seen him upset. He's always been pressing forward, trying to achieve his goals. I look forward to the day when he graduates from pilot training and I can hand him a set of silver wings."

McGuire was injured Sept. 6, 2009, when he was yanked from a boat jetting across Lake Amistad at 40 mph. He was lifted out of the boat by a rope that was tied to an inner tube when the wind caught the tube, pulling him out. His hip was dislocated, his pelvis was fractured, and his right foot was mangled.

The aftermath was a nightmare for many, and a challenge for McGuire. He was taken by ambulance to Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Del Rio, Texas, and 10 hours after the accident, he arrived by helicopter at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Initially, doctors attempted to repair the foot, but five weeks later, McGuire lost much of his right leg below the knee.

"It was so surreal," he said. "It probably really didn't hit home until I woke up after the surgery. I woke up after, and my mom started crying. I pretty much knew then it wasn't just a bad dream."

But that pain launched him onto the road to recovery. As a child, McGuire said, he wanted to be an Air Force pilot. His dream eventually led him through the Air Force Academy.

"I never wanted to give up my dream," he said. Through months of sometimes painful rehabilitation, he relearned to walk and then to run.

A medical board found McGuire fit for duty in August. Two days later, a waiver request was submitted to allow him to return him to pilot training, and the waiver was approved Oct. 29.

A few pilots are serving on active duty with prosthetics, but McGuire is the first student to be returned to training status. He said he's learned a lot through the whole ordeal, but that he especially learned the meaning of the words “Air Force family.”

"I went to the Academy, and it was a great time and we experienced a lot of camaraderie," he said. "However, throughout this, my Air Force family, and my real family, has been by my side throughout. The day of the accident, I had commanders at the hospital with me, helping take care of my real family, and ever since, they've been in my corner helping and pushing me as needed."

 

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