Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Center for the Intrepid: Rehabbing Warriors

Guest blogger: Tom Rancich, CEO of VRHabilis

Our Prime Directive at VRHabilis is to hire Disabled Vets. That’s the reason we’re in business. Which is all well and good – but it took a visit last week to the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio to really give me a solid path forward.

Holy Mary mother of Gawd---what a place-----injured, burned, amputee and generally “hit bad folks” rebuilding their lives---and smiling---and looking forward to the rest of their lives without their legs or former faces or arms. Now I know they are not that happy all the time---but they are happy at least some of that time---and they are working with less than they had before. Talk about a humbling experience. The first person I meet is a bright-eyed handsome 24 year-old kid with burns all over his face and arms---bad burns---and he is like, “I am great Sir—and you?” and I have to admit that I probably failed at my half of the conversation. But they are still working at it—working at living.

It’s not that I can’t walk the walk! I’ve been injured in the line of duty too. In October of 1997 Red Lion 617 hit the water at about 160 knots---Hilliard, Woody and Voighter were killed---everyone was hurt--I had a fractured ribs, fractured lumbar vertebrae, fractured thoracic vertebrae, dislocated hip and multiple contusions BUT I did not know about the spine problems---nor did the Docs. So the next day---I am getting out of bed and putting on my pants---which I can’t get over my swollen ass----and the Doc comes by and says---back into bed---and I was like--If you are not willing to write me up (for disobeying an order) then don’t give me an order to get back in bed….it was critically important to me to show my Admiral that I was still in the fight but even more important---to show the world that Task Unit Enterprise was combat ready---not that the world would see----but –maybe—for the fear that we would be tested and fail if we did not get back on our guns. If you’re wondering how I rehabbed? Slow and steady---and I actually listened to the docs. Here’s an article about what happened.

Back to CFI---I went there to discuss employing “graduates” from CFTI and they were awe-inspiring. Here is something that you don't know--when they start warriors out on prosthetics they turn the feet backward ‘cause folks fall backward more often. This is how well thought out this place is---they have a virtual lab that puts the kids on a boat--so they have to adjust their weight on the new legs---they are in a harness but how cool is that? It’s a surfing wave like on cruise ships so guys can develop core strength while having fun. At CFTI, if something’s not quite right they adjust and send the guy for a walk around----and they do the thing with body sensors so they can computerize the body movements and then check for irregular gait--non-equilateral movement etc.---really high speed, which, of course, is how it should be but still verra verra cool!

I was blown away at every turn---I was like, Well, that was well thought out. So anyway, it is an astounding facility manned by astounding folks helping the most astounding folks and I was honored to be able to make the visit.

I do not know where they get the courage----but they are the best of the boiling*. The lack of bitterness or self-pity was one of the most humbling parts of the visit---about 50% of the kids choose, if able, to stay in the service.

If Legends of the Fall is on your keeper shelf, you’ll recognize my reference. If not, hie thee to your nearest video store!
Lt. Commander Thomas Rancich, US Navy SEAL (Ret.) is the co-founder of VRHabilis, a disabled veteran-owned small business that seeks to employ the highly trained and motivated veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for work in construction and related fields. Rancich and co-founder Elliott Adler are pioneering the concept of using adaptive technology to bridge the gap between industrial and medical technology. Their company contributes proceeds to two worthy causes: a fund for the development of adaptive technology that will allow disabled veterans to pursue their desired career path and the EOD Wounded Warrior Fund.

Through his consulting firm, Off-Shore Consulting, Tom provides professional advice on leadership and team building, often as a motivational speaker, in addition to being an expert consultant to the entertainment industry.

Alden Mills and Charlie Mike blogger Tom Rancich served together in the Teams.


Unknown said...

God bless you all!

Unknown said...

Speaking of movies, have you seen that one on West Point, I think it was this one where they had that Vietnam vet who refused to follow an order that would have killed his men, come and talk to West Point? He was all upset because they took everything away from him. What do you think of that situation? What would you have done?

Alden Mills said...

An answer from Tom Rancich:

”Hi Barbie--Sorry--can't seem to access the clip--so don't know the theme---but being in command is a weird thing---on the one hand---you serve your men and women--and I believe are duty bound to protect them from stupid orders----BUT at anytime you only know what you know--and YOUR commander might know more---and it might be more important than you life---that is the nature of the beast---so I was very upset that they took everything away from me--because the law was to slow to change not because I did anything wrong---that said---the real sword of Damocles is that if you refuse--they will replace you with someone who will do it---and anytime I was presented that situation--I chose to lead my men instead of handing them over to an unknown--though that is likely more about an over inflated opinion of myself than anything."

Unknown said...

Thank you, Sir. The name of the film is "National Geographic: Surviving West Point". In the film, they said that in a situation in Vietnam, U.S. soldiers were being ordered to cross a field and they were all getting killed by the enemy when they would cross it. When it came time for that one vet to order his men to cross it, he said, "negative" and his men didn't get killed.
I asked someone why they would be ordering soldiers to do that when all of the soldiers that crossed that field were getting killed and they said it could be a lot of different reasons but that sometimes they kill men off so that the next group of soldiers can be sent it.
What do you think of that?

Unknown said...

Sorry, correction. The 2nd to last line was supposed have the word "in" not "it".

Joe G. said...

You are the man, Thomas C. Rancich.

In 1992, at swimming pool party, the adults failed to notice a 3-year-old cousin of mine suspended in the middle of the deep end. A bunch of people -- mostly young kids -- were running around having a good time. Several minutes passed before the little boy's mom noticed he was missing.

He died.

I think about him all the time and occasionally secretly harbor resentment against his parents, then suddenly I realize that is ridiculous.

Life just doesn't make sense sometimes, but I sure wish somebody like you had been around and noticed the little tike underwater.

Thanks again for serving our country.

Alden Mills said...

An answer from Tom Rancich:

Barb-the most likely reason for that was incompetence---though I have learned not to rule anything out in the causes of military debacles---but the sad truth is that the first several years of a war are fought by people who have been promoted in a peace time military---and don't necessarily have the expertise to lead a combat operation---and whoever gave that order was not a combat leader--you never ever ever cross a field--cemeteries are full of guys who thought--"it is just a small field"---so my guess is a commander looking at a map was thinking--jeez it is only a few feet why can't the get across---they must be slacking...and it is amazing how many bullets can occupy a small field--

Unknown said...

Thank you, Sir.

Alden Mills said...

An answer from Tom Rancich:

"Certainly ma'am", tipping hat.