Resurgence PPG is a charity that provides a unique adaptive sports experience to wounded, disabled, ill , or challenged veterans. The question is does this really help?
As a new organization and charity the only experience I have to base my assumptions on are my own. To understand the vision, it takes understanding my story. I am a retired Army Major with 18 years of service to our great country. Growing up I had dreams of flying and my ultimate goal was to be an Army Aviator. Let's just say that the needs of the Army and my desire to do other things in college besides study found me commissioned into the Field Artillery. I loved my time around cannons and rockets but my dream was always to one day fly. While I was in college I began skydiving. This hobby provided such a great release and connection to aviation for me, I hoped it would never stop.
As my military career progressed and the war on terror intensified, I received orders for my first combat deployment like so many other service members. I found myself in Iraq serving as a Military Transition Team operations officer. The experience was one that so many others have faced in Iraq but what was different about my experience was my medical evacuation. In May of 2007, while playing ultimate football with my team I became a heat casualty. I quickly passed through the various symptoms of heat stress, heat cramps , and heat exhaustion. My team ran me over to the clinic on the FOB we lived on. Per procedures the medical team treated me for a heat related injury. IVs, ice packs, wet towels, all efforts to bring my core body temperature down. I was placed on limited duty for 48 hours in an effort to re-hydrate and recuperate . During that 48 hours I didn't feel as if I was actually recovering. I still felt bad and had some strange sensations in my chest. I talked to our team medic and he advised that I go back to the clinic for additional evaluation. Once back at the clinic I relayed my symptoms to the staff and they decided to take additional vital signs. To my surprise it was determined I had suffered a heart attack. Imagine my shock to find out, a 34 year old, combat arms officer, after being in country more than 11 months, facing all there is to face in combat, now being struck down because of a heart attack. I was in disbelief. Needless to say I was immediately medevaced to Germany and then on to Walter Reed in DC where they were finally able to clear the blockage in my heart.
Amazingly, even with a 100% blockage I survived. I had significant damage to the heart but I was alive. At this point my life turned into a regiment of rehabilitation and doctor visits. After a couple months in DC it was determined it was time to send me home. To my surprise my medical review board determined I could be retained for continued service. I was ecstatic. I was able to continue to serve the nation that I love. My next assignment found me as a BN XO for a unit that trained Navy personnel for the required combat tasks prior to being deployed to theater. I enjoyed the job and enjoyed being able to continue to serve. Unfortunately, during PT one morning , I suffered a second heart attack. The physical impact of the second heart attack was not nearly as severe as the emotional impact. Due to the damage to the heart after the first event, there was actually very little change to the heart after the second. Call it a blessing if you will. I knew that this meant another medical board and a not as favorable outcome.
I was transferred to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Ft. Bragg in order to go through my pending med board proceedings. While at the WTB I had the most detrimental event of my life. My heart went into a ventricular tachycardia rhythm, which like heart attacks can be fatal. This episode changed everything. My med board was put on hold and I was recommended for implantation of an ICD / pacemaker. As I like to call it, my "arc reactor". I went through surgery and had my arc reactor installed in 2012. My fate was sealed. For some reason the Army has no need for someone that has a chunk of titanium in their chest that is making sure they stay alive. So I was medically retired.
Once I was back home and living the life of a civilian I became pretty depressed. I guess it's part of the cycle of dealing with life changes as a 40 something year old guy. The Army no longer wanted me and my heart literally was not strong enough to let me work a real job. I ended up spending a lot of time not really doing anything. I was becoming a hermit in many ways. As is so common, I added pounds. A lot of pounds. Depressed and not really caring about much of anything any longer I found food to be a comforting friend.
Ultimately I stumbled across a Youtube video of some crazy kid (Tucker Gott) flying this lawn chair contraption up to 15,000'. I was vaguely familiar with paramotors from my skydiving days but I had no idea they could get that kind of altitude. My curiosity for something, anything, had returned. I began watching more and more videos of paramotoring. I engrossed myself in more research. Then I found "THE VIDEO". It was a video of Tommy Counihan, an amputee that was trained to do foot launched flights. At the end of video Tommy says "I am unstoppable". I thought that was an amazingly powerful statement to make.
It was this video that truly inspired me. I wanted to experience that freedom. I wanted to share that experience with so many other people. I signed up for training, but how would my health be affected? Understanding the importance of weight to performance of any aircraft, I decided I had to lose weight. I began a very strict and regimented routine. In just a few short months I had lost 40 pounds. I was feeling much better, I was closing in on my goal weight, and for the first time in a long time, I would actually be able to pass the Army weight standards without having to be taped. I was energized. More importantly a recent echo cardiogram shows that my heart has recovered some function and is in the best shape it has been in since the heart attack. All positives and all looking up.
Realizing what the prospect of solo flight has meant for me, I figured there had to be others out there with a similar desire. I believe there are service members that are stuck in that same place I was in. They don't have that direction, they don't have the motivation to push themselves to move forward. I want to be able to share my passion by helping those that were like me. There is so much beauty and majesty that surrounds us everyday, sometimes you just have to get in the air above it to truly see it.
That is why I am here, and that is why Resurgence PPG was born. If you are interested in learning to fly or know a service member that could benefit from this experience please drop us a line.