Army wife Bobbie Guinn remembers the heartbreak she felt when she told her children that their father would never walk again.
“I remember driving down the road in the car with my children and my daughter asking how her daddy was going to walk her down the aisle someday,” Bobby says.
I remember telling her, ‘You know your dad; he’s going to figure it out.’
Facing adversity as a family.
To Bobbie’s 10-year-old daughter Dustie, it was hard to understand at the time. It was 2006, and her father, Sergeant Tommy Guinn, had just been injured in Pakistan while helping with earthquake relief. Tommy was making repairs on a helicopter when a nearby helicopter started its blades. The blades struck him in the head and knocked him to the ground, leaving him with a cracked skull, brain injury and a T9 and T10 spinal cord injury.
It was a period of great adversity for the Guinn family. Bobbie’s father had just passed away, and Tommy, after returning to the United States to begin treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, remained in a coma for nearly a month. He was later transferred to the Dallas VA Medical Center to begin his rehabilitation.
“For the family, it’s difficult,” Bobbie says. “All of a sudden, they come back as a different person, but you don’t want to give up on them.”
Finding a way back.
It was at the Dallas VA that the Guinns met Paralyzed Veterans of America National Service Officer Perry Dijkman, who immediately began the process of securing Tommy’s benefits.
“Perry did a fabulous job; our benefits went right into effect,” Bobbie says. “It took us longer to retire from the Army. I was so worried about Tommy at the time, and Perry just did everything for us.”
Tommy completed his rehabilitation and returned home having to adjust to his new way of life. He refused to abandon his roots as a “redneck, country boy,” Bobbie says, and it did not take him long to realize that a wheelchair did not stand in his way of pursuing his passions for the outdoors, particularly hunting and fishing.
“He’s been told numerous times that he needs to get a minivan because that’s what people in wheelchairs do,” Bobbie says. “But his response is, ‘If you find me a minivan that can pull my boat, then we’ll talk.’ He drives a truck.”
Still enjoying life.
Tommy has continued to pursue activities he loved even before he was hurt, including golfing and jet skiing.
He may not be able to do it the same, but he figures out a way to do what he wants to do.
Still, perhaps most rewarding is that Tommy was able to offer his daughter her wish. On June 21, 2014, he wheeled alongside Dustie down the aisle for her wedding day and even shared the traditional daddy-daughter dance with her on his lap. “She wanted him to roll her down the aisle because that’s who her dad is now,” Bobbie says. “It’s a package deal.”
Tommy’s life continues to be a shining example of what it means to live to the fullest, unaccepting of limitations. He and Bobby hope other injured veterans and their families can live by that example.
“Sometimes we get focused on what cannot be done when someone has a spinal cord injury or illness,” Bobbie says. “It’s nice to share what can be done.”