Face of Defense: Amputee to Return to Pilot Training

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — 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.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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