Miracle On The Mountainside

April 1, 2009

Our Wounded Warriors never cease to amaze me, with their unflinching determination and grit, as they face a life of uncertainty, as they are recovering from injuries they’ve sustained on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. Each time I hear about their accomplishments, I’m amazed and grateful that they epitomize the men and women that are serving our country in the military today. Their strength of character and tenacity is so inspiring, as they show me each and every day, what can be achieved, despite any roadblock that life puts in your way.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Roy, a first-time participant in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., is experiencing the “Miracle on the Mountainside” as he experiences skiing and other activities he once thought were forever gone to him after being wounded in Afghanistan. DoD photo by Donna Miles

For one Wounded Warrior who is taking part in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass Village, Colorado, he discovered a miracle on the mountainside. Army CSM Bill Roy, a Special Forces combat medic who has served 36 total years in the Army, 17 of those years active duty and the rest in the Army Reserve, participated for the first time at the clinic. Yesterday, he experienced something, that for him was completely outside of anything he’d ever seen, and believe me, throughout his career, he’s seen many things. He experienced a phenomenon, that those involved with the clinic call the “Miracle on the Mountainside.”1

Years ago, Roy was a double-black-diamond skiier who was never afraid to tackle any slope, regardless of how treacherous or challenging it was. In fact, he relished the challenge. After a deployment to Afghanistan, that left him severely injured, Roy figured his skiing days were over with.

While deployed to Afghanistan where he was the theater command sergeant major for the Office of Security Cooperation Afghanistan, that is responsible for training Afghan security forces, Roy was injured during a rocket attack. He had visited a FOB in Jalalabad, in March 2005 to check on his Soldiers, when mortar rounds and rockets rained down on them from across the Pakistan border. A 122 mm rocket literally lifted him off of his feet and threw him 25 yards away.2

While he knew he was injured, because he was in pain and was having trouble getting around, Roy, being the crusty CSM that he was, soldiered on. He really had no idea how extensive his injuries were. He only had 90 days left in his deployment, so he returned to Kabul and worked through the pain.

Upon redeploying to Fort Benning, Georgia, the post-deployment medical examination showed that his injuries were very severe. The blast caused disintegrated vertebrae, that caused major paralysis, two fractured kneecaps, two torn rotator cuffs, shrapnel in his head, TBI and symptoms of PTSD. Injuries, that would have caused a lesser person to immediately seek help.

“I had some pretty major paralysis in the beginning, and they told me I would never walk again, but I did,” Roy said. After 16 surgeries, he now walks with a cane, but his doctors have warned him that a deteriorating back likely will put him back into a wheelchair for good within the next few years. The blast had exacerbated a previous back injury.3

Currently, CSM Roy remains in the Army, but expects that he’ll be medically retired when a medical review board reviews his case. Because he’s a career soldier, a third generation one at that, when he heard the prognosis about his condition, one that pretty much guarantees that he’ll not be able to continue to serve in uniform, he began a downward emotional spiral. His experiences on the mountainside on Tuesday, however, showed him that even with the injuries that he has sustained, he can still lead a full and productive life. He experienced the “Miracle on the Mountainside.” Tuesday, he sat aside his can, put everything aside, as strapped into an adaptive sit-ski. With two ski instructors flanking him, he headed down Snowmass Mountain, leaving in his wake, a cloud of fresh powdered snow.4

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever do something like that again,” Roy said, shaking his head as an ear to ear smile stretched across his face.5

That moment was a very defining and pivitol moment in his recovery. One that changed his mental outlook and gave him hope for his future as a disabled veteran. As well as helping his mental outlook, the clinic is giving him a very clear understanding that life ahead doesn’t have to stop him from doing things that he enjoys. In fact, life ahead is his for the taking and he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to, regardless of any physical limitations.

“This has been a turnaround for me that has changed my mental attitude for the better,” he said. “I’m laughing and having fun - and believe me, I haven’t done that for a very long time. I may be altered, but if I’ve got the right mental attitude, I don’t have to be disabled,” he said. It’s all mind over matter. And if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”6

CSM Roy was quick to praise the winter sports clinic, that’s become an annual event sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. The clinic is currently in it’s 23rd year, as a rehabilitative tool for veterans with disabilities that can range from spinal cord injuries, to amputations to visual impairments or neurological conditions. The winter clinic isn’t the only one that is sponsored by the VA and DAV. They also have the opportunity to learn rock climbing, scuba diving, trapshooting, wheelchair fencing, sled hockey, snowmobiling, during a 6 day program. During these activities, veterans eyes are opened to a whole new range of opportunities that are available to them, if they’re willing to put forth the effort to try. For most of those who have participated in the past or currently, the experience can be a life changing one.

“I’d recommend this clinic to anybody,” Roy said. “This has really rejuvenated my soul.”7

As in the past, I’m always happy to feature the programs that are available to help our wounded warriors, as they recover from their injuries and sometimes challenges in life that they never expected to have to face. I can’t say enough about how wonderful these programs are, how lifechanging they are for these men and women. The groups that provide these opportunities to our wounded heroes are indeed helping to create “miracles,” and showing these heroes that despite their injuries, that anything is possible.

  1. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53733 []
  2. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53733 []
  3. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53733 []
  4. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53733 []
  5. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53733 []
  6. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53733 []
  7. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53733 []


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