KENNESAW, Georgia, U.S.A. – Ever play knockout? Ever win knockout? Ever done both of those things while wearing a hot pink cast?
Hi. I’m Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Conrad Sloane, a first year male freshman cadet in the Civil Air Patrol Program in Atlanta, Georgia.
Last fall, I was playing a football game in the Salvation Army Football League when I broke my left leg while defending a pass. Laying there on the ground, quite a few things ran through my mind, including what was going to happen at school when I got back.
What am I going to do about getting to school? How am I going to get around? Who’s going to carry my backpack? Will I still be able to wear my uniform? What will my friends think?
These and many more questions awaited answers that long day.
That first Monday back, I arrived at school to find myself welcomed back warmly and with open arms … literally.
People left and right kept on wanting to give me hugs, so much so that it got tiring by the end of the day with people still wanting to hug me.
I knew I had quite a few friends, but this was astonishing! Not only were people I rarely said hi to asking me how I felt, they were asking me if they could do anything to help me. It really just blew me away.
Now I’m not the kind of person who milks people for all that they will give. I’m quite the opposite, so I chose to do things on my own if I thought I could do them.
I opened my shared locker that was on the ground, opened and held the door for people, and played knockout in ROTC, all as if nothing had ever happened.
The only thing I couldn’t do was carry my own backpack. But every day I thanked the person who carried it for me, up until the day I got the cast taken off.
But other than that, I pushed forward as though I had two perfectly legit legs and nothing could stop me.
As it turned out, I got excused from wearing my uniform until I had both legs back. Unlike most people who would have enjoyed not having to wear their uniform for two and a half months, I was disappointed.
Don’t think of me as the cadet who sucks up to their commander by writing this, though. I just like wearing the uniform and am proud to do so.
The one thing I could still do – to my commanders’ displeasure – was do drill. Being the deputy commander of our drill team, I felt obligated to continue going to the practices. And after a couple of weeks on crutches, I actually joined in and practiced with my team.
While marching, the crutches were my left foot, and my right was my right. That way I could march and stay on step.
Eventually I got the nerve to finally try out a game of knockout, a highly competitive basketball shooting game.
To mine and everybody else’s surprise, I actually won! This amazing feat of perseverance continued on with my hot pink half cast (my original one was a full leg cast).
Not only was I winning, I was winning repeatedly and with no contest. After a few days of “crutch-drill,” I started drilling while walking on my cast (with my doctor’s permission to gradually start putting weight on it, of course).
But drill wasn’t the full extent of my crippled abilities.
Along with drill, I played basketball while inhibited by the cast. Well, sort of. After school I go to an adult education class twice a week, just for fun. We basically go outside and do physical training and sports along with writing assignments every other day.
Unfortunately, because of my cast, I wasn’t able to participate in the athletic activities, and I was supposed to do “alternate writing assignments.”
But I was determined to go outside with everybody else and not stay inside alone for two hours. So I walked/crutched out to the basketball courts with my classmates, which at a distance of nearly a quarter mile, is enough exercise for a day.
Conrad Sloane is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.