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Contact the Amputee Coalition at 888/267-5669 or amputee-coalition.org 29

“I thought my career would be over,” says Brian Washington, 31, of his below-knee amputation in 2009 and his plans to work in government security or law enforcement.

Brian interrupted college studies to join the United States Air Force after the attacks of 9/11. “I wanted to protect people,” he explains. He became a mili-tary police offcer, served 6 years and led a tactical team.

While stationed in Iraq, Brian devel-oped pain in his left leg. Medical tests later showed the problems were life-threatening. “I chose amputation rather than risk death,” he says.

Compounding the blow, a law agency Brian had hoped to work for now

in criminal justice. He set new goals – “I wanted to be running again in 6 months” – but he was devastated. His father, Mike Washington, says, “I was depressed; he was depressed. But I listened, pushed him to look for the silver lining, and said it’s not the end and he shouldn’t give up.”

Carol Washington, his mother, adds, “He was mourning the loss of a limb, at frst angry – ‘Why me?’ – going through all the stages of the grief process. We were there at each stage and helped him work through it. I said, ‘If I could trade places with you, I would.’”

“My parents were beside me the whole time and my dad helped fnd a great physical therapist and prosthetic com-pany for me,” Brian says.

He adds, “If I got down, my mom would say, ‘Whatever happened to the 13-year-old boy who went off to military school and came out a 1st Lieutenant and president of the Ski Club?’ I had so many goals in high school and college. They

Two other things contributed to his recovery, Brian believes. First, “I had a lot of discipline from the military,” he explains. His high school was the Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsyl-vania. It taught lessons in goal-setting and teamwork. The Washington home reinforced them.

Expectations for Brian and his sister were clear. “We had high standards in our family,” his mother says. “And giving back was part of the family culture. I volunteered and took them with me. I’m proud of that. Soup kitchen. Fundraising for a hospital.” His father adds, “Boy Scouts, football. Our daughter danced in the ballet. We were involved in the community.”

A second positive force, Brian believes, was meeting others with limb loss. “In 2010, I went to my frst Amputee Coalition conference. I met people who gave me information, shared stories about hardships, talked about goals. They even talked about companies they had developed.”

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