No man is an island and we all need inspiration time to time. If you can pull your head out of your iPhone or laptop long enough you just might be amazed at what’s going on in the world around you.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a fan of the TV show. The gentleman explained that he had to use a wheelchair to get around and wanted to know if I had any advice to offer about the best way to use a firearm or conceal one for personal protection. I must admit that I sat on the message for a while because I didn’t feel qualified to respond.
Sure, I have plenty of advice to offer about firearms training and what it takes to carry concealed. However, from the very specific standpoint of physical and mobility limitations I really couldn’t put myself in his shoes. I felt it was akin to asking for marriage advice from a nun.
Colonel Tim: A Source of Inspiration
When I began my nine hour drive from south Mississippi to the Circle WC Ranch in northeast Texas I had no idea what fate had in store for me. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with my friends Bill, Joyce, and Ryan Wilson and my old buddy Ken Hackathorn. Ken and Bill were putting on a three day pistol and carbine course at the ranch and I was looking forward to not only taping the event for Student of the Gun but getting in some quality trigger time.
The evening of the first night I was introduced to a man I’ll refer to as Colonel Tim or simply Tim. Colonel Tim, despite receiving life-altering injuries in Iraq two year ago, is still on active duty with the United States military.
Tim arrived at the ranch in his specially outfitted Dodge pickup truck. The truck was equipped with all hand controls because Tim lost both of his legs during an IED attack in Iraq. Where his knees and lower legs used to be, there are now prosthetic legs. Colonel Tim can move slowly on his new high-tech legs while using a cane to maintain balance. To get around more rapidly Tim also makes use a manually operated wheelchair.
My first impression of Tim was that despite his mechanical appendages, he looked every bit the part of a fighting military officer: his hair close-cropped, his jaw rugged, and his upper body muscular and fit. Fifteen minutes after we met I know he was my kind of guy. We shared the same twisted sense of humor that most men who see combat develop. Colonel Tim was also a dedicated shooter and gun guy and was excited as a kid before Christmas to take the three day class from Ken Hackathorn.
As the course progressed Tim alternated from a standing position to shooting from his chair. He was greatly aided by the all-weather outdoor carpeting Bill had laid on the pistol range. Bill says it’s easier to collect brass that way but it certainly didn’t hurt Colonel Tim’s feelings as he maneuvered around.
When it came time for move and shoot drills, Ken took on a drill sergeant persona. “Colonel, I know you are capable, but for these drills I’m giving you a designated driver. He drives, you shoot. The matter is not open for discussion.” “Roger that.” was Tim’s reply. Like most of our wounded warriors, Tim is fiercely independent, but he’s also a good trooper and understood that a designated driver would help keep the training day moving.
In the evenings after dinner we all shared adult beverages and favorite war stories. I related the email I’d received from the man in a wheelchair and asked Tim for his thoughts on the matter. He agreed with my initial take that I was under-qualified to address the issue.
“It’s tough,” Tim began. “There’s no getting around the fact that it’s harder to shoot and protect yourself when you’re in a chair or using a cane. It’s also sad but true that there are vermin in our world who look at the guy with a cane and think ‘easy money’. Before I lost my legs I was six-foot four and two-twenty-five. I never really worried about defending myself.”
Colonel Tim paused for a moment and then continued. “My advice to anyone with physical limitations is that you need to make the world work for you. Sure it’s tough, but hey, the world ain’t fair. Suck it up and drive on. You can quit if you want, but you’re better off training, practicing, and finding out what will work for you.”
During the long drive back home my head was filled with thoughts and images from the extended weekend. I was truly grateful for the experience. It turned out to be more than I could have ever imagined. I considered my new friend Colonel Tim and the inspiration he provided to everyone else who attended the course.
Settling in at my desk early the next morning I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from Tim. We talked about training and guns and how his personal story could be an inspiration to others. Rather than simply offer Tim’s advice one to one via email we agreed that this public piece would be a better avenue.
“I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for me,” Colonel Tim admonished, but if there are other folks out there in a similar situation, I want them to know that you can do it. It’s just tougher and you need to figure it out by trial and error. Don’t give up.”
Whether you have full use of your arms and legs or physical limitations, Tim’s advice holds true. Life can be tough. You can quit or you can drive on and make it work for you. The choice is yours to make. While watching the Colonel maneuver around the range with rifle in hand, making the world work for him, I was struck by the fact that most excuses are simply that. Before you tell yourself you can’t do it, consider Colonel Tim.
Author Bio: Paul G. Markel became a US Marine in 1987 and served this nation in time of peace and war. Paul host Student of the Gun on the Sportsman Channel. Mr. Markel has been a professional bodyguard, police officer and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. His lifelong training and skills are being put to use today as an instructor at the recently launched “Emergency Tactical Skills” program. For more info go to www.EmergencyTacticalSkills.com.