WEST POINT, N.Y. - “I was the first amputee to return to combat,”
said retired Sgt. 1st Class Andy McCaffrey from Arlington, Virginia,
the first amputee from Afghanistan to return and continue the fight.
“A Chinese hand grenade detonated in my hand,” said McCaffrey.
During the last few weeks of his tour to Afghanistan in 2002,
McCaffrey was involved in a training accident with a grenade. The
accident resulted in a below-the-elbow amputation.
June 10, 2014 - Sgt. 1st Class Andy
McCaffrey from Arlington, Va., gets familiar with the 2014 U.S. Army
Warrior Trials cycling route at the U.S. Military Academy, West
Point, NY. More than 100 wounded, ill and injured service members
and veterans from across the United States are at West Point
competing in the Warrior Trials, June 15-19, 2014 where athletes
from the Army, Marines and Air Force face off in archery,
basketball, cycling, track and field, swimming, shooting, sitting
volleyball and wheelchair basketball. Participants in the trials
include athletes with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain
injuries, visual impairment, serious illnesses and amputations.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric Lieber)
“I set record time; within 4 days of me arriving at
Walter Reed, they had a prosthetic on me,” said McCaffrey.
He says that he was not going to let his injury stop him
from continuing his Army career. Within a month of his
accident, he was tying barbells to his prosthetic, teaching
himself to do a pushup and trying to make sure he was
incorporating his prosthetic hand in everyday life.
McCaffrey said, “Exactly two years to the date, after losing
my hand I was back in Afghanistan.”
During the two
years he went back through the Q course, the initial formal
training program for entry into the United States Special
Forces, to re-certify so he could stay a part of the team.
Later in McCaffrey's career he started to fall into a
depressive state. During this time, a fellow Soldier
introduced him to cycling. McCaffrey immediately fell in
love with the sport.
“It turned out a cheap piece of
bent plastic was the best fit for my riding,” McCaffrey
said. He went through many different prosthetics until he
found the perfect one for cycling.
in the time trial race for the 2014 U.S. Army Warrior
Trials, June 15, 2014, on the streets of the U.S. Military
Academy, West Point, New York. More than 100 wounded, ill
and injured service members and Veterans from across the
United States are at West Point competing in the Warrior
Trials where athletes from the Army, Marines and Air Force
face off in archery, basketball, cycling, track and field,
swimming, shooting, sitting volleyball and wheelchair
basketball. Participants in the trials include athletes with
spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual
impairment, serious illnesses and amputations.
started the race at 8:20 a.m. and set a goal to be in my
room by 10 a.m. I was back in my room before 9:45,” said
McCaffrey. McCaffrey took second place in the Permanently
Disabled Uprights group, having competed on an upright
bicycle that was required to complete about 30 kilometers.
This particular race covers the longest distance in the
cycling events. Female riding upright bike riders and male
recumbent riders are required to ride three laps, female
recumbent riders do two laps, and hand-pedaled recumbent
riders complete one lap.
McCaffrey has been on
several different cycle teams during his career in the Army
and continued after his retirement in October 2013. He
credits cycling with helping in his healing process and
hopes that Soldiers will not sit around and focus on their
injuries, and instead find a sport or activity to focus on.
The Adaptive Reconditioning Program is a program that
includes activities and sports that wounded, ill and injured
Soldiers can participate in to optimize their physical,
cognitive and emotional well-being.
As a cyclist,
McCaffrey is no stranger to the fact that good nutrition,
activity and sleep is important in training. These are the
same three principle involved in the Army's Performance
Triad. He wants to let Soldiers know the importance of
training for a bike race, saying that “You wouldn't just
jump in a car, and start racing in NASCAR.”
never gave up and became the first Soldier to return to
Afghanistan with a prosthetic arm. He wants to see other
wounded, ill and injured Soldiers fight on and find that one
activity that keeps their focus on a better future. He is
looking forward to competing in the 2014 Warrior Games in
Colorado Springs, Colorado.
By U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Lieber
Comment on this article