In June of 2008 while conducting operations in Iraq, Gary’s helicopter suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure and crash-landed. As a result of the hard landing, Gary suffered a broken back at L1 and was instantly paralyzed below the waist. After only three months of recovery he returned to duty and culminated his career in the Army as the Officer in Charge of the only Special Operations Aquatic Training Facility. His military awards and decorations include the Combat Action Badge, Master Aviator Badge, Parachutist badge, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Medal with Numeral 17 and “V” device.
Along with a grant from the Infinite Hero Foundation, the Airpower Foundation was proud to present Gary with the first EKSO exoskeleton for home use during Sky Ball XII. This past October, Gary was able to walk his daughter down the isle for her wedding. Here is what Gary had to say about receiving the device and what it means to him:
“It is very difficult to put into words what it meant to me and my family to receive the Ekso exoskeleton for home use. To say it changed our lives would be an understatement.
The exoskeleton was a godsend and it has enhanced our lives in so many ways. It has given back a portion of what was taken in a terrible helicopter crash. The Ekso has helped return some dignity by giving me the ability to once again stand on my own two feet, walk in some form and look someone in the eye at six feet tall. Using the Ekso we have helped in a successful FDA study to make this device available to other Veterans, inspire others and plant the seeds of creativity in the minds of children.
Personally, it helped me achieve what I thought was impossible. That which had been lost forever, the ability to walk my daughters down the aisle when they married. With the Ekso, I did just that on October 29th of this past year.”