Hero Challenges Community To Appreciate Veterans’ Talents During Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet
WHEELING — A crowd of nearly 300 attending the annual Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce banquet Wednesday heard some sage advice from a double amputee U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq War on how a community can and must build “the next greatest generation.”
Col. Gregory Gadson, who lost both legs to an explosive device while riding in a caravan of Army troops in Iraq, pulled no punches in describing the horror and pain of that day in May 2007, when his life changed for both the bad and eventually, the good.
Through a unique set of circumstances, it was 19-year-old Pvt. Eric Brown from Spokane, Washington who applied the tourniquet to staunch the bleeding from Gadson’s badly damaged legs on that foreign roadside. Brown had only completed his hurried medical training days before and was originally trained in nuclear, chemical and biological warfare when he was assigned to Gadson’s security battalion. Years later, Gadson would attend Brown’s wedding and see him graduate college.
“I’m here today because he saved my life … My team saved my life,” Gadson said. “I received 129 units of blood. I died five or six times in the operating room. I had a feeding tube. … I almost bled to death.” He lost both legs to complications in a matter of days, plunging the former West Point football player into a dark place in his life.
“When I came home, I went from doing anything I wanted to needing help with everything. I rejected assistance. I balled up on the floor in the corner. I cried for two days for the pain to go away … I wanted to quit, “ Gadson related.
However he recalled his West Point training and his coach’s words of pride, self-accountability and living up to the best of his ability. He said he was taught that team stands for “together everyone achieves more.”
“I couldn’t even quit right,” Gadson quipped. That’s when he made the choice to “live life to the end, stay present” and rededicated himself to be his best.
Gadson allowed himself to accept the help he needed and utilized the opportunities of a chamber of commerce to start a veterans business incubator.
Gadson challenged those in attendance at the White Palace in Wheeling Park on Wednesday to capitalize on the talents of veterans in the community. “You have an opportunity to create the next greatest generation. It’s our obligation to them. You have to take care of those who served to have others willing to serve,” he said.
Gadson served 26 years in the military, with eight of those years after he was injured. He served as the garrison commander of Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County Virginia, where he oversaw the daily operations of the base, home to 50,000 military personnel and control for more than 140 commands for the Department of Defense. Gadson has also tested the acting waters in Hollywood, playing in the 2012 action movie “Battleship.”