One Man’s Odyssey: Pete Way and the Augusta Warrior Project

Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Perry's Blog | 0 comments

By Perry Smith

One way to help explain how the Augusta Warrior Project works is to examine one veteran who has received assistance from the team members at the non-profit AWP. The following is the story of Pete Way, an Army veteran who was badly injured in Afghanistan in 2003.

Pete, son of an Episcopal priest, spent most of his youth in Sandersville and Savannah. After graduating from Windsor Forest High School in Savannah in 1984, Pete entered the University of Georgia. An important moment in his life occurred during a college open house. He watched members of the UGA ROTC unit rappelling down the side of a tall building. He was so intrigued that he signed up for the ROTC. Shortly after marrying his college classmate, Anne Fear, in 1989, Pete was commissioned a second lieutenant in Army. He was soon off to Forts McClellan and Carson. After 9/11/ attacks he became a member of the elite Army Special Forces.

In 2002 and 2003, Pete served in Afghanistan. He was part of a combat operation when the vehicle in front of him was hit. Pete rushed to assist a soldier who was trapped in the vehicle. As Pete pulled him to safety, the soldier and his heavy equipment landed directly on Pete. His back and left leg were damaged; his right leg was crushed. Determined to remain in support of his team, Pete bandaged himself up and refused medical evacuation.

Since his legs remained very painful, Pete later sought medical help. The damage to his right leg was so severe that a series of operations followed. Leg pain plus a series of infections resulted in more than twenty operations—but the pain never went away.

When Pete and Anne were doing some fundraising for the Augusta Warrior Project two years ago, they encountered a helpful member of the board of the Augusta Warrior Project, Janet Gallo.

Soon afterwards, Rick Herring of the AWP introduced Pete to a veteran who had had similar medical issues which eventually led to an amputation. She gave Pete her views on living with an amputation. After weighing all of the options, Pete decided to have his right leg amputated above the knee.

Despite continuous, severe pain, Pete was told that he would have to wait eight weeks for his operation. Learning of his dilemma, Kim Elle, the president of the Augusta Warrior Project, made a phone call that solved the problem. A few days later, a successful operation took place at the Eisenhower Regional Medical Center.

Pete has had to deal with a number of other problems. Because his wheelchair is too wide to pass through a number of doors in his home, it was important for some doors to be widened. When the VA was unable to help, the Semper Fi Fund stepped in with the funds to widen doors and to provide a first-rate wheelchair ramp so he can get in and out of this house with relative ease.

An avid hunter, Pete has been unable to get into the woods. The AWP connected him with a foundation in Georgia. He now has an all terrain wheelchair which enables him to go anywhere he wants for hunting or fishing.

Pete has become deeply involved in adaptive sports. He finds this involvement very therapeutic. The only time the pain goes away completely is when he is competing or training hard for competition. AWP has made connections for Pete in the adaptive sports community and other veterans activities. As a result, he has become involved with the US Paralympic Biathlon Program and now trains with the national team. He competed in the US Paralympic Nordic National Championships in January, 2016 placing 3rd in the 6.5 km biathlon competition. Additionally, Pete has competed in the Valor games, winning a gold medal in the hand cycling road race in 2015 and 2016. He also enjoys wheelchair basketball, sit volleyball, archery, shooting and golf. AWP connects him with opportunities to participate in these activities.

My wife, Connor, and I see Pete, Anne, son Joe and daughter Lara at Saint Paul’s Church often. Anne teaches adaptive Physical Education for the Columbia County School System. Joe will soon commence his senior year at Lakeside High School while Lara attends the University of Georgia where she runs cross Country and track. We have even gotten to know Pete’s faithful service dog, Rory, who was given to Pete by America’s VetDogs.

As the members of Way family chart their future, they remain deeply appreciative of the help they have received from the AWP team members.

My next article will highlight how the Augusta Warrior Project overcomes bureaucratic barriers in order to insure that veterans get the support that they need and deserve.

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