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Beyond the statistics: A lifetime of consequences from drinking, driving

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The Air Force dedicates significant time and resources to educate Airmen on the dangers of driving under the influence. Nearly 30 people in the U.S. die in alcohol-impaired driving crashes every day; one every 48 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The statistics are sobering.

For many people's lives untouched by a DUI, stories may be impersonal. For Kevin Brisco though, a contract specialist in my squadron, his story is anything but impersonal.

Kevin became a victim of a Fort Hood, Texas, soldier's decision to drive under the influence and a lifetime of consequences followed.

On Aug. 31, 2001, Kevin, his wife, Jill, and their two Labrador retrievers, began a Labor Day road trip from their Fort Worth, Texas, home to Austin. After a brief stop at a Sonic, they had no way of knowing their lives were about to change forever.

While traveling on Interstate-35 in Belton, Texas, an intoxicated driver hit their vehicle.

Trapped in a pile of twisted metal, Jill found Kevin choking on his own vomit and pushed him forward in his seat to clear his lungs. Ten minutes later, CareFlight arrived on scene, performed a tracheostomy, and rushed Kevin to Scott & White Memorial Hospital.

Jill and the other driver sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Kevin went into a coma and did not wake until Sept. 26, 2001, 26 days later. He missed the 9/11 tragedy as he was living his own.

Jill, an occupational therapist, quit her job to care for Kevin. A team of speech and physical therapists helped him recover both cognitively and physically. A year later, Kevin was finally able to return to school and earned his bachelor's degree.

To this day, Kevin copes with the consequences of that soldier's decision to drive under the influence. Kevin looks back on that evening and considers himself lucky that Jill was there to save his life. Additionally, he considers himself lucky that a police officer witnessed the accident and called for immediate medical assistance and that Scott & White Memorial Hospital was relatively close to the accident.

I am sure his family now looks back and considers their luck as well. They are fortunate to have a man of Kevin's character in their lives. So are we.

Kevin joined our squadron in 2012 and comes to work each day wanting to make a difference. Perhaps, this is why he agreed to let me tell his story.

As we approach St. Patrick's Day, green beer undoubtedly will be flowing from the taps. We need to appreciate though, that because we share the roads, we share a responsibility. It takes more than the luck of the Irish to ensure we get home safely.

You need to have a plan prior to celebrating if you decide to drink otherwise you risk a lifetime of consequences not only for ourselves but for others.

Team Patrick-Cape is asked to call Airmen Against Drunk Driving at 321-494-7433 (RIDE), if you need a ride home.