Laughlin Amputee Earns His Wings
(May 29, 2011)
First Lt. Ryan McGuire (right) accepts the Daedalian
Award from Col. Michael Frankel, the 47th Flying Training Wing
commander, during graduation from Specialized Undergraduate Pilot
Training May 20, 2011, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Lieutenant
McGuire became the first person to graduate Air Force pilot training
as an amputee. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Blake Mize
LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS - 5/25/2011) -- Earning the
coveted silver pilot wings is a long and difficult journey allowing
only a small percentage of officers to earn the right to be called a
pilot in the U.S. Air Force.
By becoming the first amputee to
graduate from pilot training, First Lt. Ryan McGuire earned his spot
among the elite group May 20, along with the rest of Specialized
Undergraduate Pilot Training class 11-09, but his dream didn't come
Lieutenant McGuire's injury occurred Labor Day
weekend in 2009 during a boating trip. After getting a tube-tow rope
tangled around his leg, he was yanked from the boat while jetting
across the lake at 40 miles per hour. He dislocated his hip,
fractured his pelvis and mangled his right foot.
beginning, when it first happened, it wasn't that bad," Lieutenant
McGuire said. "But then it started to get progressively worse.
Tissue started to die very slowly after we got there, but we thought
everything was going to be ok. After it was getting worse and once
the realization set in that I was going to have something amputated,
it was pretty devastating."
Doctors at Brooke Army Medical
Center in San Antonio, where Lieutenant McGuire was admitted, tried
to prevent the dying tissue from spreading.
While in the
hospital trying to stay optimistic about what his next step would
be, one moment stood out that gave him hope.
McGuire and his mother were in the hospital before beginning rehab
when they saw a Soldier walking down the hall. The Soldier stopped
to ask Lieutenant McGuire when his amputation had taken place. The
revealed that it had been only a few weeks. The Soldier said his was
just a year prior, and walked away.
"He was wearing pants and I had no idea he had a
prosthetic," Lieutenant McGuire said. "I will never forget
that moment and the amount of hope I gained." |
five days after his surgery, he began his rehabilitation
process, which was the first of many feats needed to reach
his goal of staying in the Air Force.
difficult before you get your (prosthetic) leg to keep up
the motivation and it is really frustrating to be on
crutches or in a wheelchair," Lieutenant McGuire said. "My
therapist and I developed a plan to get me out of the
hospital as quickly as possible but still rehab at 110
He noted that his injury was always in the
front of his mind and he thought being a pilot really wasn't
attainable because there were so many boundaries he had to
"First, it was a big obstacle to stay in
the Air Force," Lieutenant McGuire said. "When we found out,
my mom started screaming she was so happy."
months after being notified that he was able to stay on
active duty, Lieutenant McGuire got a phone call from his
flight doctor with more good news.
"I was at work
when he called and told me I was able to go back to pilot
training," he said. "They were always a step ahead and it
was nice to know that I was not forgotten."
for a second chance to fly was a no brainer for his mother.
"I remember asking specifically if he would ever fly,
and they said no," said Debbie McGuire, Lieutenant McGuire's
mother. "It just showed that you have to keep trying. Never,
ever give up. And this is the combination of that and I know
he has wanted this for so long. It's just amazing."
The 2008 Air Force Academy graduate had planes on his mind
since he was young, his mother said.
"I remember way
back when he was little, when he was about four, and you
asked him 'What do you want for your birthday?', and he
would just say 'airplanes,'" his mom said. "We would ask him
what else he would like and he said 'just airplanes.' He
always wanted to fly. That's all he ever wanted to do."
While staying positive and not taking no for an answer
allowed him to get back to pilot training, he accomplished a
few things before completing the yearlong course.
"Shortly after learning to walk on my prosthetic, my
therapist and I walked 26.2 miles together," he said. "It
was a 10 hour and 57 minute hike through the White Sands
Missile Range (in) New Mexico. When I crossed the finish
line, I started to see what focus and hard work can do."
Still, within a year of receiving the below-the-knee
amputation, he also competed in the inaugural Warrior Games
at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.,
and completed the Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base, Ohio. The combination of those feats and the
fact they were accomplished on one leg earned him the Air
Education and Training Command Male Athlete of the Year
title for 2010.
"He has the stubbornness from both
his dad and me to go out and do what it takes to get it
done," his mother said. "I think he is more like his dad in
that he can stay so focused and see it through to the end.
When there's a lot of other things going on around him, he
can just stay right on task."
Staying on track is
what he did while wrapping up the final phase of his pilot
training just like any other graduate.
became his flight commander, I flew with the flight for
about four months," said Capt. Calford Morris, the 86th
Flying Training Squadron K flight commander. "I didn't even
know Ryan was an amputee. I heard the story, but I didn't
put the face with the name. I actually flew with him for the
first time before I found that out. You could not tell at
His seamless execution during his training
allowed him to be the first amputee to ever complete pilot
"We made sure that we proved the argument
that I can do this," Lieutenant McGuire said. "I am just as
capable as anyone else. We did all the training excessively
to prove I can do this and that gave me the confidence to
get back in the plane. My first instructor, I don't even
think he knew I had a prosthetic. I wasn't graded any
easier. I was graded like everyone else."
On May 20,
after beginning pilot training in 2008, Lieutenant McGuire
graduated pilot training and his family was there to pin on
"This is probably the best day of my
life," Lieutenant McGuire said. "Unfortunately, I had some
of the worst days over the last couple of years and this is
a complete 180 and something that I thought that was
impossible. It hasn't sunk in and I don't think it will for
a while. It's been a long time coming."
work to earn his wings did not go unrecognized during his
time here. Lieutenant McGuire was also awarded the Daedalian
Award during class 11-09's graduation ceremony.
is an award based on performance and character as they
relate to the tenets of the Order of Daedalians," said Lt.
Col. John Binder, the 47th Operations Support Squadron
commander. "The tenets are military aviation, integrity and
patriotism. It's a whole person award when it comes to
Lieutenant McGuire will be moving
on to C-17 Globemaster III training at Altus AFB, Okla., and
then to McChord Air Force Base, Wash., where he will be
"I hope this shows people to never give
up on their dream," Lieutenant McGuire said. "I worked
extremely hard to get where I was before the accident and
had to work even harder to get where I am now. You have to
keep your goals in mind and have faith in yourself."
By Sr. Airman Scott Saldukas|
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News
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