Amputee Returned To Duty
(July 14, 2011)
Staff Sgt. David Flowers adds weighted squats into his workout routine June 28, 2011, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.The explosive ordnance technician was officially returned to duty in June after he lost his right leg and incurred major damage to his left leg in a land mine explosion in Afghanistan in 2009. In August, he is scheduled to begin training to be an EOD instructor at the Navy EOD School. Flowers is assigned to 366th Training Squadron, Det. 3.
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS - 7/11/2011) -- After months of
surgeries and rehabilitation, continuous physical therapy sessions
and a full medical evaluation board an explosive ordnance technician
gets to remain an Airman.
"It's exactly what I've been
working so hard for," said Staff Sgt. David Flowers, a seven-year
veteran who lost his right and most of his left leg to a land mine
in the mountains of Afghanistan. "I didn't want to leave, (EOD)
means a lot to me."
May 11, 2009, was Flowers' last day as a
completely qualified EOD tech, but he didn't know it then.
While securing and disposing of a weapons cache, Flowers stepped on
a land mine. The blast took off his right leg at the knee and
shattered his left. Even though the incident changed his life
forever, the sergeant can joke about it two years later.
foot flew up and hit me in the face," he said. "I actually kicked
myself in the face."
Flowers also incurred a broken right arm
and permanently damaged hearing. He said he believes his fellow EOD
techs, Staff Sgt. Gene Tschida and Tech. Sgt. Lilly Smith, saved his
life that day.
After the blast, Tschida sprinted across the field to begin medical
treatment on Flowers. Smith rushed to call in the medical evacuation
from a satellite phone.
"They did the impossible," Flowers said. "It's easy to lie
on the ground and bleed. The hard part is to mustering up
the courage to race across a minefield and save somebody's
After arriving at Walter Reed Army Medical
Center, the sergeant underwent 29 different surgeries.
Muscles were removed from his stomach and back and placed on
his left leg. Skin was also removed from the side of his
thigh and placed on his calf.
In September 2010,
Flowers said he felt he was ready to move on to outside
"(The medical staff members at WRAMC) were
great at getting you back on your feet and even keeping you
there, but I felt I could get help somewhere else and not
take time from others who were still on their backs," said
Before leaving Walter Reed, medical
officials created a narrative summary of Flowers' health
status. The summary initiated the medical board process and
included a full breakdown of his injuries, capabilities and
mobility. The medical board would determine if Flowers was
fit enough for continued duty, or if he should be separated
from the military.
Flowers was reassigned here, where
the Eglin AFB hospital and a local-area prosthetics lab
could meet his medical needs and the Navy EOD School lent
the opportunity to become an instructor.
discussed his return to duty and the attached limitations,
his first question to me was if he would be allowed to
deploy as an EOD expert," said Dr. Jeff Schievenin, from the
96th Medical Operations Squadron. "I don't think I've ever
met an Airman so dedicated to his specialty and his EOD
In December 2010, Schievenin drafted a new
summary and a local medical evaluation board convened at
Hurlburt Field, Fla. The board determined Flowers was indeed
fit for duty in a limited capacity.
and exceptional work effort in his rehab plan has been
inspirational," said his doctor.
Flowers said he was
ecstatic after hearing the news and it was exactly what he'd
hoped for. He said he never expected there was a chance he'd
have to separate from the Air Force.
"I felt the
students here needed to see what was really going on in this
career field," said the Mississippi native. "You can talk
all day (to students) about someone who was hurt or died,
but until they see it firsthand, they have no connection to
it. I can show them what it's really like."
2006, 18 EOD operators have been killed in the line of duty
and 90 have been awarded purple hearts for their efforts in
the areas of responsibility, said Chief Master Sgt. Al
Schneider, the 336th Training Squadron, Det. 3
"Since the beginning of the wars (on
terrorism), the battlefield has evolved and it puts Air
Force EOD on the front line," said Schneider, who has
deployed four times. "Though the drawdown is beginning to
happen, EOD Airmen will remain in harm's way for the
Flowers faced another obstacle
in February 2011 when Air Force Personnel Center officials
recommended a 40 percent medical retirement.
not expect that after all I'd been through," he said.
Flowers said constant talks with Schneider kept him cool
and focused through two months of waiting.
Flowers met with a lawyer at Lackland AFB, Texas, to review
his options, with plans for an appeal. Instead of an appeal,
the lawyer advised Flowers to apply for limited assignment
According to Air Force Instruction 36-3212,
Physical Evaluation for Retention, Retirement and
Separation, the LAS program conserves Air Force manpower by
retaining needed Airmen of experience and skills. Flowers
took the chance and applied.
Within two weeks of
submitting the application, Flowers got the good news. His
physical evaluation board liaison officer informed him he
could to return to duty under the LAS program.
was my end goal of the entire process," he said. "I just
wanted to be an asset to the Air Force and give something
back to the next generation of our EOD Airmen."
Flowers is scheduled to attend EOD instructor training at
Keesler AFB, Miss., in August.
"If I can't be out
there kicking down doors, or disarming explosives, I want to
do something beneficial to the EOD community. I just want to
help," he said.
Article and photo by USAF Samuel King Jr.|
96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Provided by Air Force News Service
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