JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Life happens in an instant; and while the damage and destruction can take years to clean up and rebuild, dramatic and unforeseeable change occurs in a flash.
“I can remember the night of the accident very vividly; mostly I remember being stopped at a red light and looking at a lady in the vehicle next to me frantically pointing past me through her window. As I looked to see what she was pointing at, that is when the car hit me and everything went black.”
Staff Sgt. Kevin Greene, 920th Rescue Wing, was struck by a female motorist, while on his motorcycle, who had been texting while driving.
“The next thing I know, I am waking up in a hospital, hearing people in the background yelling out hysterically, people praying and then a doctor walking in,” he said. “The doctor told me I was just involved in a fairly severe motorcycle accident, and that my brain was fine and there was no damage to my spine, but that my left foot was too severely broken to save and they had to amputate it.”
Greene would undergo nearly 20 surgeries over the course of several months following his initial amputation December 2014, due to infection and bone loss.
After a rough year in recovery, Greene’s unit submitted his first participation waiver to Air Force Reserve Command in the hope of gaining approval for him to re-join them on drill weekends. This first request was denied.
“After that, I faced an initial review in lieu of board January 2016, which was also denied, but I refused to quit,” Greene said. “Next, I submitted a world-wide duty request, which was denied again by AFRC. My final stepping stone back to military service came April 2017, when I traveled to JBSA-Randolph to face a medical evaluation board.”
In addition to talking with board members, Greene needed to pass the Air Force physical fitness test.
“Even with just one leg I was feeling pretty confident going into that test,” he said. “I was ready to prove to the Air Force and myself once and for all that I could do this – that I was still good enough to continue serving.”
Passing the waist measurement, push-up and sit-up components of the assessment, Greene came face-to-face with the 1.5-mile run.
“I was so excited to be even in my Air Force PT (physical training) uniform again that I sprinted the first two laps, which was in hindsight a mistake,” he said. “By the third lap I was significantly slower, and then even more so by my fourth lap.
“I picked it up a little in the fifth and that was when an Air Force officer who just happened to be running on the track on his off day started running with me, pacing and motivating me,” he continued. “I finished at about 13 minutes, and I thanked him for being my wingman in that moment. He looked at me and said I inspired him… but really, he inspired me. That moment was another testament to the Air Force family I missed so much and still wanted to be a part of.”
Greene left his test and his overall medical evaluation silently waiting. It was during his trip home that he received official word that he passed the board and was being formally reinstated into the Air Force Reserve.
“There are no words for everything I felt in that moment; I remember ending that call with my lawyer and just feeling a sense of purpose again – I felt whole,” he said.
After finally being returned to duty April 2017, Greene waited four months before attending his first official drill weekend in August. Several months later, he was placed on orders by his unit commander to join him at a conference in Washington, D.C., at the Pentagon for exposure to command-level work.
It was there that Greene was introduced to the current Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. David L. Goldfein, who not only reenlisted the Reserve Airman, but personally introduced him to the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program.
During that same time, AFW2 was hosting a CARE Event at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. At the urging of the Air Force’s most senior commissioned leader, Greene decided to check out the resources available to him via the program that could further aid in his recovery process.
“Initially I thought this was too good to be true; I could not see how people running an Air Force program who were not injured or wounded themselves would be able to fully understand my struggle and what I needed, let alone genuinely help me,” Greene said. “I spent about two and a half years waiting around after my injuries for some kind of help, and in that time the disconnect I felt from the military had only grown. It really felt like no one cared about me when I was struggling most with everything I was; following an accident that was not my fault and which I had zero control over.”
Despite undergoing such a traumatic and dark period, Greene’s perspective and perception of Air Force care as a whole has been reshaped through his working with the AFW2 program and staff.
“This is my first CARE event and we are only several days in, and already I just feel this outpouring of genuine care and concern from people I just met; people who have no reason to be this involved, but you just know and feel want to have a positive impact on your life and recovery… it is truly amazing,” he said. “And I am learning that this program goes so far beyond the visible wounds like mine; I have had my mind expanded to what being a wounded warrior really means in terms of even the invisible wounds I have been exposed to here.”
Greene explained that this is one of the first times he has been exposed to unseen wounds like post-traumatic stress disorder, while gaining first-hand insight into what that affliction is like for service members dealing with that personal struggle.
“It has even helped me ask the harder questions of myself to determine whether or not what I experienced left me with an invisible scar I was unaware of,” he said. “The greatest thing about this program and this event specifically is how I have been able to relate to others who understand my struggle – you just see the genuine understanding and compassion in people’s eyes here, and that makes all the difference. I hope to leave here with more resources; my goal is to keep serving the Air Force and I am hoping here I can gather the information needed to ensure I remain a valuable asset to my fellow Airmen and this nation.”
For more information about the AFW2 program, visit their official website. Additionally, be sure to like their Facebook page for program updates, upcoming events and the latest news.
Editor’s note: The next CARE event (following JBLM) will be held at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, this November.