A soldier from Fort Hood in central Texas will never change his cellphone service.
Spc. Maes, 21, was assigned to the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division when he was injured about a year ago while his unit was on maneuvers in Poland as part of a joint training mission called Atlantic Resolve.
An investigation later revealed the tank’s parking brake failed and a hydraulic leak meant the emergency braking procedures were unresponsive. With their tank careening down the hill, they could only hold on.
The driver, identified as Private First Class Victor Alamo, sustained a broken back. The gunner, Sgt. Aechere Crump, had a serious wound to her thigh. The turret of the tank slammed back on impact, crushing Spc. Maes‘ leg.
“I pushed and pulled at my leg as hard as I could to get loose and felt a sharp tear,” Spc. Maes recalled. “I thought I had dislodged my leg but when I moved away, [it] was completely gone.”
Although seriously injured, he managed to crawl back into the rear of the tank and grabbed a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. They couldn’t call for help because the tank’s radio system was apparently damaged in the crash.
Then, Spc. Maes heard his cellphone ringing. Sgt. Crump, also seriously wounded, found it and tossed it to him. He managed to send out a call for help. The last thing he remembered was seeing his sergeant major running up the hill carrying the leg.
In addition to losing a leg, Spc. Maes also broke his ankle, his pelvis and his shoulder. He spent four months in intensive care.
Spc. Maes is now recovering and learning to adapt to his new life at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He undergoes regular therapy to prepare him for receiving a prosthetic leg through a cutting edge procedure called osseointegration.
Rather than using a traditional socket to attach the prosthesis, surgeons at the hospital will implant a titanium rod in the bone of his residual limb. It’s not unlike a dental implant, hospital officials said.
Spc. Maes said he now wants to become a prosthetist and help others in his situation.
“When something like this happens, it’s easy to give up because your life won’t be the same and you’re not wrong,” he said. “Life will take a 180 but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Don’t let it hinder you from moving forward.”
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