Being told he'd never walk and talk again didn't stop a medically
retired sailor from turning to cycling for recovery.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jerry W. Padgett II served for 17 years
as a damage controlman who conducted riverine and search and rescue
operations. He was injured in an improvised explosive device blast
in Afghanistan in 2006 while working with the Army's 10th Mountain
Division in Kunar province. He received a spinal injury and a
traumatic brain injury.
Medically retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jerry W. Padgett II, front, raises his arms during the Face of America bike route in Gettysburg, PA
on April 24, 2016. More than 150 disabled veteran cyclists were paired among 600 able-bodied cyclists to ride 110 miles from Arlington, VA to Gettysburg, PA over two days in honor of veterans and military members.
(DoD photo by EJ Hersom )
After nine surgeries, Padgett said he began feeling sorry
“I wanted to feel sorry for myself, but
then I had a friend who used to ride bikes come to be one
day and he said, ‘Why don't you ride a bike?'” Padgett said.
“I was like, ‘Whatever.' He brought a kid in, and this young
man, he's climbed the second tallest mountain in the world
in Nepal. He's a triple amputee due to diabetes. He uses his
mouth and his hands. This kid climbs mountains with his hand
and mouth. If I can't get myself out of this bed and into a
chair and eventually onto a bike and ride 10 miles, then who
am I? It really motivated me.”
Padgett hand cycles
with nonprofit organizations and typically takes part in
100-mile multiday rides that take him across the country.
He said his motivation is, “What you do for yourself
dies with you, but what you do for others, lives on for
eternity. So what we do while riding is getting other
veterans out the door and getting other people involved.”
Padgett said every group ride he participates in has
veterans from every era, and the rides are all about the
camaraderie and building lasting friendships.
He said he also appreciates that organizations such as
Warriors4Life bring awareness to suicide prevention.
“They bring awareness that too
many veterans are taking their lives,” he said.
“Warriors4Life rides in every city. It brings awareness; it
brings knowledge. It brings light to the darkness. We're an
organization to stop suicide as the answer, whatever it may
be, whatever it drives you to think that that's the option.
We're going to ride it out, ride it away. There are better
Padgett said the only true disability in
life is the lack of communication.
“I was told I
wouldn't walk and talk again, but I'm talking,” he said,
smiling. “I'm not walking but I'm going distances. The true
disability is the lack of communication, when you fail to
ask somebody when you walk by, ‘How are you doing?' Are you
okay?' People think I'm a little crazy. I ride in my
wheelchair, and if I see somebody look at me, I wave at them
and I say hello.
“One day, I had a plan to go on that
lonely walk and not come back but there was this man,” he
continued. “He's in our neighborhood, and everybody used to
call him Weird John. He would always say hi to everybody. He
walked up to me out of nowhere, gave me a hug and said, ‘How
are you doing?' I looked at him and said, ‘Why did you do
that?' He said, ‘You looked like you needed a hug.' And I
did. You never know what kind of battle somebody comes out
of, civilian or military.”
Padgett offers advice to
veterans willing to recover from their visible and invisible
“Go to your local park and recs and see if
they have adaptive sports or go to your local adaptive
sports coordinator,” he said. “Be willing to listen as much
as you want to talk. It will help you get out of that
darkness. I used to tell people, it's hard to let go of the
demons because there the only ones that held you when no one
else would. Warriors4Life, the team will hold you until
eventually you're able to hold someone else. You just have
to make the effort and know that you're not alone.”
By Shannon Collins
News / Defense Media Activity
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