The Bayonet

Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2014

Wounded Ranger shares recovery experiences

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Five months after an insurgent attack critically injured Sgt. Thomas Block in Afghanistan, the Army Ranger shared his experiences of resiliency during adversity with students from the Maneuver Senior Leaders Course March 13.

“What I want you guys to get out of this is you can have bad things happen to you and you can always come back from them no matter how bad things get,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who told me I wasn’t going to be able to do certain things and I’ve been proving them wrong everyday since then. It’s been motivating to me to want to do better and better everyday.”

Block was with B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, when he was injured in October after an IED explosion killed four Soldiers and injured several others. The Waseca, Minn., native lost his right eye, injured his left eye and suffered a collapsed lung. He was transported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Besthesda, Md., where he spent several months recovering and learning how to walk again. Despite his challenges, Block said he was determined to do everything doctors told him was impossible.

“On Feb. 15, I ditched crutches completely and left the walking boot home to go to Minnesota to see Family and walk among people for the first time,” Block said. “Since then, I’ve been getting back into the weight room working with our physical trainer, who has been nothing but amazing to me, and getting back into a good physical shape.”

Block used the determination of fellow Ranger Cpl. Josh Hargis, who lost both legs in the attack, as motivation, he said. Hargis recently participated in part of a 222-mile walk from Fort Stewart, Ga., to the National Infantry Museum using a wheelchair and prosthetic legs.

“He has pictures of himself on Facebook playing soccer — He’s a strong man to me,” Block said.

Block said he uses each day to become a better version of himself.

“(Improving) everyday is what has gotten me here, standing before you with no crutches or a boot or a cane,” he said. “I have very low vision in my left eye, and I had a doctor at Walter Reed tell me I would never see well enough again to drive … I went to the medical center at Fort Benning and I saw 2100 (eye vision). It’s a gift from God if you ask me.”

While doctors are still in early stages of surgeries and research to improve vision in his eye, Block said his future in the Army is uncertain. He looks forward to getting married next year and improving as a Soldier each day, he said.

“I’m excited to see where this takes me I’m excited to be uniform and serve this country the best way possible to the best of my ability and if I need to separate from the Army, I’ll do the best to serve my country in the civilian sector as well,” he said. “My determination is what has gotten me here today and kept me going this entire time.”

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