Rescue Airman Amputee Wins Battle to Continue Serving

Citizen Airman/Oct. 2017 -- After a 2-½ year battle, a health care management technician with the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, who suffered a partial amputation of his left leg, finally won a battle to continue serving as a member of the Air Force Reserve.

For Senior Airman Kevin Greene, separation from the service he loved was never an option, despite the fact that he was facing the greatest challenge of his life as a result of a motorcycle accident.

“I remember the night of the accident vividly,” he said. “I was coming home from work and was stopped at a red light when I looked to my right and saw a lady in the vehicle next to me point to her window.”

Greene said as he looked to see what the woman was pointing at, he was hit.

“Next thing I know, I’m waking up in the hospital,” he recalled. “I hear people in the background crying hysterically, family praying and then the doctor walks in. He said I got into a pretty severe motorcycle accident. He said my brain was fine; there was no spinal damage. However, my left foot was just too severely broken to save, and they had to amputate it.”

Greene ended up going through several more surgeries, after his initial amputation on Dec. 17, 2014, as his leg became infected multiple times. His last surgery in February 2015 left him with three-quarters of his left leg.

During his roughly two-month stay at the hospital, Greene recalled always being surrounded by family, friends and co-workers.

“I definitely felt loved in the hospital,” said the Brooklyn, New York, native. “My immediate family was always there, of course, but my Air Force Reserve family surprised me. I knew people in the unit cared, but there was no mistaking it on the drill weekends when I’d have like 40 people coming to visit me. The staff didn’t even know what to do with that many visitors. The love and camaraderie I felt within my unit was the driving factor in my wanting to continue to serve.”

Unfortunately, Greene found out the hard way that donning the Air Force uniform again wouldn’t be an easy feat. During his first year of recovery, he had a lot of work ahead of him to get back into top physical shape.

“I went into the hospital at 182 pounds and I left at 120 pounds,” he said. “I was in my wheelchair a lot those first few months, and I wasn’t eating.”

After getting fitted with his first prosthetic in March 2015, he decided the road to recovery was best walked.

“It was a tough first few months out of the hospital,” Greene said. “I knew I needed a change of scenery to really test out my leg, so a good friend of mine took me on a road trip to my hometown, Brooklyn. We just walked the streets of New York for a week straight. It was exactly what I needed.”

After a year in recovery, Greene’s unit submitted his first participation waiver to Air Force Reserve Command to be able to participate in drill weekends. It was denied. Subsequent requests to continue his military service were also denied. But he didn’t give up.

“It was discouraging at times; I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “But I knew I was meant to be a Reservist. There are opportunities to be had in the Air Force that you just can’t get anywhere else. I was thriving in the Reserve before my accident, and I just wanted that sense of purpose and pride that comes with the uniform back again.”

Losing steam in his more than two-year battle, but never giving up, Greene faced his final steppingstone back to military service in April when he traveled to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, to face a medical evaluation board. In addition to talking with board members, he had to pass the Air Force physical fitness test.

“I was pretty confident going into the test,” he said. “I was ready to prove myself once and for all.”

He did well on the waist measurement, push-up and sit-up portions of the assessment, and then came the run, which he completed in about 13 minutes.

On his flight home from San Antonio, Greene received word that he passed the board and was being reinstated into the Air Force Reserve.

“Words can’t begin to describe the emotions I felt when I got that phone call from the lawyer,” he said. “This whole process and my accident have given me a new outlook on life. I just tell people to appreciate every moment; cherish every day.”