JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – A hit-and-run
driver robbed Staff Sgt. Michael Smith of his arm and nearly his
life, but failed to impact his single-minded determination.
“My commitment was to staying in the Army for 20 [years],” Smith
said. “There was no way I was going to be shortchanged due to
someone else's negligence.”
After two years of intense
rehabilitation and training at Brooke Army Medical Center, Smith's
persistence paid off. An above-the-elbow amputee, Smith met every
standard and was approved earlier this month to return to duty as a
Scene Left - Army Staff Sgt. Michael Smith
prepares to cycle in the Warrior Games Trials at West Point, N.Y.,
in June 2014. Smith qualified for cycling, but opted to compete in
swimming and track and field at the Warrior Games in Colorado during
July. Scene Right - Army Staff Sgt. Michael Smith competes in a
Tough Mudder in May 2014. Tough Mudders are 10 to 12-mile obstacle
courses designed to test strength, stamina and teamwork skills.
(Image created by USA Patriotism! from DOD courtesy photos)
“I'm very excited about what the future holds,” the
15-year veteran said. “With or without my injury, I want my
daughter to know what true commitment looks like.”
Commitment Never Wavered
In the years since his accident, Smith's commitment has
recruiter in Nashville, Tennessee, at the time, Smith was
riding his motorcycle when a texting driver slammed into him
from behind. He flew over the guardrail and was then hit
midair by a driver coming from the opposite direction.
“I was knocked unconscious on impact, and when I woke up
I was lying on the highway,” Smith recalled. “My boots and
helmet had come off, and my arm was hanging on by the skin
inside my jacket sleeve.”
Smith tried to move off the
road but was unable. The texting driver had driven off but
the second driver, a Navy corpsman, rushed over and tended
to his wounds until the ambulance arrived. In the coming
months, Smith underwent six surgeries due to infection,
which eventually claimed most of his right arm.
Miraculous Turnaround and
Not long afterward, Smith had
another brush with death when he suffered kidney failure.
His father drove up from Amarillo, Texas, he said, and sat
by his bedside praying for hours.
“The next couple of days, I made a miraculous
turnaround,” Smith recalled.
Facing a long
rehabilitation and based on a recommendation from his
cousin, who works at Brooke Army Medical Center here, Smith
requested to be assigned to BAMC's Warrior Transition
A week-and-a-half later, he arrived at the
Center for the Intrepid, BAMC's outpatient rehabilitation
center. Smith's goal was to return to active duty, but he
knew he was facing an uphill battle.
“I spoke to the
CFI staff and they pushed me to do everything,” he said. “I
knew I had to prove I could do just as much if not more than
With this goal in mind, the former high
school athlete dove into every sport possible. He mastered
shooting firearms. He ran Spartan races, Tough Mudders, and half-marathons. Tough
Mudders are 10- to 12-mile obstacle courses designed to test
strength, stamina and teamwork skills.
went rock climbing, skiing and snowboarding. He swam, cycled
and took part in track and field. He joined soccer,
basketball and kickball leagues.
Earlier this month,
Smith nervously appeared before the Physical Evaluation
Board. Yet he felt confident they'd approve his request to
remain in the Army. He was thrilled when they declared him
fit for active duty.
“I've been committed to the Army
my entire adult life,” he said. “I feel very blessed that I
have the opportunity to continue to serve.”
Return To Duty, Promotion
Smith, who is slated to be promoted to sergeant first
class this week, hopes to resume his prior career in field
“I just want to be a
regular soldier, go to combat if needed,” he said. “I
honestly feel like there's nothing I can't do now, thanks to
the support from my family, friends and the staff at the CFI
who were with me every step of the way.”
As he awaits
orders, Smith is filling his time with his other passion:
sports. He's slated to represent the Army in track and field
and swimming at the Warrior Games next month, and continues
to cycle daily in hopes of making the 2016 Paralympic team.
Smith said he believes to this day that he lost his arm
for a reason.
“I would like
to inspire and motivate others struggling with mental or
physical challenges,” he said. “No one should let their
injury determine who they are or who they want to be.”
By Elaine Sanchez
Brooke Army Medical Center
American Forces Press Service
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