Written by By Army Staff Sgt. Catrina Dorsey RC-East PAO
With two prosthetic knees, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jack Ursey, from Martin, Tenn., walks 100-miles for the Wounded Warriors Project, here, over the course of two and half days. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Catrina D. Dorsey, 7th MPAD)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Sitting in his office on a make-shift bed, he has a smile on his face that would reach around the world.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jack Ursey completed his third 100-mile walk-a-thon in support of the Wounded Warrior Project, Oct. 29-31. Ursey, from Martin, Tenn., chief of personnel for Combined Joint Task Force-1, said he walked “to honor our nation’s 46,000 plus wounded warriors; raise the awareness for what the WWP does for our wounded warriors and their families; and to raise funds for its effort.”
The first step in Ursey’s journey began in 2008, when a parachuting accident, while assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, injured both knees.
“My chute collapsed and I fell 75 feet before I hit the ground,” he said. “It fell like a train, but it could have been worse.”
After several surgeries, his doctors determined the only solution was for Ursey to have complete knee replacements; replacing both knees at once.
Ursey said those first few months were tough, especially while lying in bed where he would have moments of anger, feeling sorry for himself and all sorts of what he considered were normal emotions. For Ursey, it all came down to two choices: quit or fight. He chose to fight.
He began thinking of how he could beat “it”, a way to close that chapter in his life. Moving forward meant rehabilitation for his knees, and part of his rehabilitation included walking.
“That’s when it hit me that I could do a walk on the one-year anniversary of my surgeries”, said Ursey.
A friend of Ursey’s runs a 100-mile race in Hawaii every year.
“So why couldn’t I walk 100-miles?” he asked.
His wife, Cindy, suggested a distance of 25 to 50 miles might be more reasonable, given the severity of his surgeries.
“Anyone can walk 25 to 50 miles, I reasoned” said Ursey.
Since his inaugural walk in 2009, Ursey has completed a 100-mile walk the last two years to honor wounded warriors and to raise funds for the WWP.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shannon Tyus, of Twin Groves, Ark., also walked 100-miles to support Ursey in his mission of raising awareness of wounded warriors.
“To see him do it last year without complaining about it was inspiring and motivating to me as well,” said Tyus. “He is extremely passionate about the WWP.”
“[It’s] the least we able bodies can do for the wounded warriors,” explained Tyus. “After seeing so many Purple Heart ceremonies, how can you not support our heroes who have been injured keeping our nation safe.”
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Leslie Darling, from Silver City, N.M., said she chose to run the 100-miles in honor of the thousands of wounded warriors who may never have the opportunity to run due to their physical limitations.
“This year is the first time I participated in the Wounded Warrior Project walk/run,” said Darling. “I feel humbled and blessed to be associated with these fine Americans; heroes deserving of all they were entitled to before injury. If my running motivates just one person to support and contribute to the WWP, then it was worth every step.”
She hopes that perhaps this one act of awareness will resonate with people and increase their desire to stand by our wounded warrior’s side.
Usrey said that he has a connection with wounded warriors because he can relate to them on one level - each of them had to make the choice to quit or fight.
“We hear stories of how wounded warriors are fighting back every day, refusing to let their injuries stop them,” said Ursey. “It’s physically, mentally and emotionally challenging to not be the person you used to be. I deal with it every day with many small challenges.”
Stopping every few hours for food and water and the occasional visit by the doctor to check their feet, the three completed the event in less than forty eight hours.
Many fellow Soldiers walked with them at their forward operating bases and combat outposts across Afghanistan.
“We would feed off of their energy and it will carry us through the rough spot,” said Ursey.
As Ursey continues to raise awareness for the WWP, he can also take pride that his desire to teach his children to tackle adversity has taken root.
“A personnel motivator for me will be that my 14 year-old son will be doing a shadow 100-miler at the same time in Texas. He inspires me,” said Ursey. “Although we’re almost 8,000 miles apart, we’ll be together at that moment, connected by a cause larger than us as individuals, much like the idea that created out nation.”
His son Garret, who completed the 100-mile walk in Texas, finished it in just under 33 hours, beating his time from the previous year of 39.5 hours.
“To date we've raised $15,001 and counting,” said Ursey. “141 troopers across CJTF-1 and 11 civilians back at Fort Hood, [including] my son's 100 miles and the 100 miles of his pacers, walked 1,339 miles in that 48-hour period to honor our Wounded Warriors. Our two goals were $10,000 and 1000 miles – we exceeded both because of the amazing men and women that serve our nation and our families back home.”
“This is the first year others completed the 100-miles with me,” said Ursey. “It was motivating to me personally that Darling and Tyus chose to do the entire 100-miles. Both kept me going when my knees wanted me to stop. They rock!” said Ursey.
“Most of our wounded warriors are in their 20s...we owe them our support till the end,” Usrey said.
For more information on the Wounded Warrior Project go to HYPERLINK "http://wwproudsupporter.kintera.org" http://wwproudsupporter.kintera.org to learn more.
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan—From left to right: U.S. Army Lt. Col. Leslie Darling, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jack Ursey, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shannon Tyus, all from the 1st Cavalry Division and Combined Joint Task Force-1, complete their 100-mile walk/run on Bagram Airfield, Oct. 31. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Catrina Dorsey, 7th MPAD)