This weekend I did something I was told I would never be able to do.
In early 2003 at Fort Bragg, NC I jumped out of a C17 (Airborne operation) and got slammed into the ground by a high wind gust. On that jump I destroyed the cartilage between two of the bones in my left ankle. (Stay with me now, I promise I’ll get to the beautiful pictures of our hiking trip to Lost Lake this past weekend shortly.) The doctors put me on a temporary profile for my ankle which I promptly tore up as I was heading to Battlestaff school at Ft Bliss, TX enroute to my next assignment at Fort Lewis, WA.
At Fort Bliss I managed to keep up with the runs every morning and I iced down my ankle every night. I graduated Battlestaff and hobbled towards Fort Lewis. At Fort Lewis I joined the headquarters staff of the 1/25 Stryker Brigade as their Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Noncommissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC). We started train-up for deployment to Iraq shortly after that. I did my best to keep up with everything but my ankle got steadily worse and by the time we went to National Training Center (NTC) and returned I could barely walk and ended up in a boot brace and with a permanent profile.. which made me ineligible to deploy to Iraq.
I didn’t want my unit to deploy without a PSYOP NCOIC so I immediately put in my retirement paperwork. This is where it gets interesting. While I was waiting for my retirement paperwork to process the unit went to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) and as the senior NCOIC in the brigade headquarters (HQ) NOT going along on the training mission I ended up the acting Command Sergeant Major (CSM) for a few weeks. I guess I did a good job because when the unit got back the CSM and Commander (CDR) asked me to pull my retirement packet and stay on as the Rear-Detachment CSM while the unit deployed to Iraq. Which is how a female PSYOP NCOIC ended up as the Rear-D CSM for an Infantry Brigade for a bit over a year. This is a picture from during that time.
Okay, back to my ankle. What the doctors told me was that I would never be able to walk distances carrying weight again. That I could never spend any significant amount of time standing again. That I could have surgery if I wanted but there was a 50/50 chance of me being permanently lame after the surgery. NO THANK YOU.
I? Do not accept limitations easily. (understatement of the century)
I retired from the army in early 2006 and I’ve spent the last 10 years doing my best to live my life the way I want to. I’ve worked at maintaining my physical health. I’ve learned how important it is to drink water and stretch pretty much constantly. I’ve slowly strengthened the muscles that surround my old injuries and I’ve worked to build up the ability to physically do the things I want to.
This past weekend, for the first time in well over 10 years I went on a backcountry camping trip. We trekked up to Lost Lake in the Norse Peak Wilderness. I carried a pack with all my own gear. We went about 8 miles each direction with something like 1800 feet elevation gain on the way in I think. Did my ankle hurt? Yep. Every step of the way. My knees were cranky too. But I made it and it was GLORIOUS.
I accept the fact that I can’t do this too often. I know that someday I won’t be able to go as far or perhaps carry enough weight to make the overnight trips. But for now? I’m just going to be kind of quietly proud of myself for overcoming that personal challenge. For not just listening when the doctors told me what I ~couldn’t~ do. And I’m going to be gentle with myself this coming week as I limp around the house. I’m going to ice my ankle and my knees and I’ll take the pain meds when I need them.
Also? I have a huge amount of gratitude for my amazing partner. He encourages me and supports me in everything I want to do.. and if I wanted to make this hike and ~couldn’t~ have carried my own gear? He would have found a way to carry my weight as well as his. Because that’s just what he does. Here. Have a gratuitous picture of this beautiful man I’m in love with.
And now for the pictures of the ridiculously beautiful hike to Lost Lake.