Four-wheeling 'therapy' for wounded Iraq War vets
Like too many others, Adam Britton went to war a confident young man and returned damaged, both physically and mentally.
Doctors and time try their best, but cannot cure what ails him. What does help? What form of therapy works best for him?
Four-wheeling. Off-road adventures that take him to remote places and provide challenges. He’s found it to be so beneficial that he wants to take others with disabilities along for the ride.
First, his back story:
The 43-year-old Denair resident and Army veteran joined the Army National Guard as an emancipated minor in 1987. He later re-upped with the regular Army and became an air assault infantryman. Sent to Arizona in 2001, he spent 17 months doing anti-drug and anti-terrorism duty.
He volunteered for duty in Iraq in 2004, and went to a base south of Baghdad. He suffered wounds and injuries in three incidents in a little more than four months. He tore the meniscus in his right knee when boxes of ammo and grenades slammed into his leg during a vehicle accident one night.
Then, as he rode atop a Humvee as the driver’s side gunner, an insurgent’s vehicle rammed his head-on. He went flying, landing on his shoulder and separating it and causing nerve damage in his right arm.
And finally, while recuperating, he went into a post exchange, bought a couple of items and then headed for the door. Just as he stepped outside, an enemy mortar struck the building. The concussion of the explosion left him with a brain injury, a smashed nose, a sliced hand, chipped teeth and more nerve damage. Hence, a flight to Germany and the first of many surgeries.
Two years later, he received a medical discharge. And in the decade since he was wounded, he’s had numerous surgeries and seemingly endless rehabilitation. He uses a cane to walk, and while he has good range of motion in his right hand, he has no feeling in it. Veterans Affairs rates his disability at 100 percent, he said. He has post-traumatic stress disorder, which also factors in.
“My paperwork has me nonemployable,” Britton said. “I can’t get a job, go to school. I’m still fighting to have the knee fixed. It’s so frustrating.”
Such frustrations can take these vets into dark places emotionally, he’ll tell you. Often, he hunkered down at home, an angry and withdrawn man.
“I spent three years not leaving home,” he said.
But he eventually began doing more, and came to realize the impacts his condition had on his family and himself.
“No matter what a soldier goes through, it’s always harder on the spouse,” he said.
He knew things had to change, and he had to change them. To do that, he needed a purpose and a cause that could help him by helping others. He found it on four wheels...