Soldier Injured In Afghanistan Qualifies As An Elite US Army Sniper
A US Army Special Forces soldier who had his leg amputated after being shot in combat in Afghanistan made history by becoming the first amputee to pass the elite sniper training course at the Special Warfare School.
John Wayne Walding - yes, he's named after that John Wayne - was in his mid-20s when he was sent out on a 'cursed' mission in Afghanistan.
He and his fellow soldiers, as well as a load of Afghan Army soldiers, were ambushed by more than 100 enemy fighters.
In the ensuing firefight, Walding was badly shot. When he looked down, he saw that his leg was barely hanging on.
His good friend and fellow Green Bert, Ryan Wallen, told Insider: "It was hanging on by like a tendon or two.
"I've never seen an injury that looked that bad."
Walding added: "I never will forget falling forward and then rolling over to see that leg just hanging there by only about an inch of flesh.
"It was the worst pain I've ever felt in my life."
Despite that, the fighting wasn't finished. After improvising a tourniquet for the bleeding, he used his bootlaces to strap the bottom of his leg to his thigh, and re-joined the fray.
Wallen explained: "As f***ed up as everybody was, we didn't have time for anybody to lay there bleeding and dying."
After a long and difficult mission to evacuate the wounded, Walding was taken to hospital, with added hypothermia from a freezing river added to the bargain.
Though all US service personnel made it out alive, several Afghani soldiers didn't.
The next morning, when Walding woke up, he looked down at where his leg used to be and cried.
He had hoped that they'd be able to save it, but it wasn't possible.
"I never will forget waking up the next day," he said.
More Like ThisMore Like This
Despite his injury, he decided that his days in the Green Berets weren't through. He explained: "Donning that Green Beret was one of the most profound moments of my life, and a leg was not going to stop me from doing that.
"We didn't get through that day because I was great or any of our guys. It was because we were willing to fight to the death to keep each other alive."
"You don't just wake up the day after all of that and say, 'Well, I guess I'll hang up the hat'."
So, he decided to train to become a Special Forces sniper.
He took an intense course at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, fitted with a prosthetic leg. He says that, despite being physically impaired, he 'never finished last' in the training.
Walding said: "Why did I keep going? Because I loved it.
"You don't do what I did because you like it. You do it because you love it.
"To become a Green Beret, there's a lot of people that quit because they just liked it. They liked the idea of being one, but that's not how I live."
In 2010, he made history by graduating from the course as the first amputee ever to do so.
Despite that, he decided not to return to combat, and become an instructor instead.
He explained: "I knew that no matter how good I was with one leg, a Green Beret with two was always going to be better."
Walding added that he 'wouldn't be able to live' with one of his colleagues getting injured or worse because of him.
Now, he lives in Texas with his wife and four children, having retired in 2013 with his Silver Star medal for combat, as well as a Purple Heart as recognition for his sacrifice in the line of duty.
He runs a shipping company called Gallantry Global Logistics - named for the words on the back of that Silver Star - and aims to employ more veterans than any company in Texas.
He also co-founded Live To Give, a company that donates half of all profits to veteran and first responder charities.
However, the other medal is just as symbolic.
Walding said: "I wear that Purple Heart figuratively every day.
"Every single day, I wake up and I see my leg is missing. I will forever remember the cost of freedom. It really is a driving factor for me to not be good, but be great."
Featured Image Credit: John Wayne Walding
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read