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Symbol of hope


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POSTED: Friday, June 19, 2009

An Iraq war veteran who lost his legs below the knees to a roadside bomb has become a source of national inspiration—even for the 2008 Super Bowl winners.

The audience at Tripler Army Medical Center's chapel yesterday gave Lt. Col. Greg Gadson and his wife, Kim, a standing ovation after he described how he overcame his battlefield injuries.

“;It was deeply moving,”; said Lt. Col. Holly Olson, director of medical education at Tripler Army Medical Center. “;To have somebody of his national prominence come here and speak to us is a gift.”;

Gadson of Fort Belvoir, Va., was serving as commander of 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, of the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., when he deployed to Iraq in February 2007.

On the night of May 7, 2007, Gadson—41 at the time—was leaving a memorial service for two fellow soldiers when a roadside bomb blasted his vehicle. He fell to the ground and was lying in a pool of blood when a fellow soldier found him.

A medic tied tourniquets around his legs, an act that Gadson said saved his life.

He was transported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Doctors amputated his left leg. Days later, his right leg, which was severely infected, also was amputated.

But he didn't let his disability define him, he told the Tripler crowd.

“;I continued on with my life,”; said Gadson, still an active-duty artillery officer.

A 1989 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Gadson received many visits at the hospital from friends from West Point, including his former football teammate Mike Sullivan, now one of the coaches for the New York Giants. Gadson had played as a linebacker for the academy.

Sullivan invited him to a game against the Washington Redskins and asked if he could talk to his team after the Giants started the season 0-2. Gadson recalled telling them what teamwork meant to him.

“;A team is not a collection of individuals that just happened to show up at the same organization and work, but they understand they have to give of themselves first,”; said Gadson. “;I thought of my battalion as a team and my team saved my life.”;

The Giants went on a six-game winning streak. During the 2008 Super Bowl game against the New England Patriots, Gadson served as honorary co-captain. They won 17-14.

Gadson, who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan while stationed at Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks from 2001 to 2005, now wears prosthetic legs and uses a cane to walk. Last month, he obtained a graduate degree from Georgetown University.

He credited the support of his wife and their two children.

Gadson is due to deliver the keynote address at Tripler's annual training program commencement today.