Patt Maney comes from a proud family tradition of military service stretching back to the French and Indian War, so his path to join the Army Reserve in 1971 was well laid before him.
What he couldn't foresee, though, was the massive blast from an improvised explosive device that would rip through his armoured vehicle in Afghanistan three decades later. Even less clear was the endpoint of his long, arduous path to recover from his injuries which included a broken nose, 27 cracked teeth, cartilage tears in both of his shoulders, sprained knees, nerve damage and a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).
In 2005, about 50 miles outside of Kabul, Maney's life changed in a literal flash. As an Army civil affairs officer working as a political advisor to an Afghanistan reconstruction group, he was on a mission to find drinkable water when the explosion happened.
Though everyone in the vehicle survived the attack, Maney's hard road to recovery was about to begin.
His most serious injury, the TBI, took away many of his cognitive abilities. A fellow soldier had to walk him onto the plane out of Afghanistan. His wife and full-time caregiver had to lead him around by the hand during his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, likening him to a 6-year-old in a 56-year-old's body.
But despite the severity of his injuries - and even though a medical evaluation board determined he was no longer fit for duty - the Army concluded he had no long-term disabilities. DAV (Disabled American Veterans) helped him fight for the VA care and benefits he earned, and when he officially retired in 2007 as a brigadier general, Maney was ready to begin a fresh chapter of service.
Maney, who refers to himself as a broken but undefeated soldier, returned home with a new sense of compassion for what veterans sometimes go through. in 2011, he started the very first Mental Health and Veterans Treatment Court in the state of Florida. To date, more than 30 other Florida counties have adopted a Veterans Treatment Court.
Maney also pushed for the establishment of a Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Center in Florida's Okaloosa County in 2011. The center now provides counseling and rehabilitation services to hundreds of veterans and their families each year. He also spearheaded the Homeless Veteran Stand Down, an annual community-driven event that began in 2007 and has helped 1,200 homeless veterans to date.
After 20 intense months of healing at Walter Reed, Maney used his own experiences and challenges to fuel his advocacy work for other veterans. And this past August, for all that he has done for his country and the veteran community, Maney was named the DAV's Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year.
Maney is an inspiration to disabled veterans everywhere - myself included. He embodies never giving up in the face of adversity, and instead overcoming obstacles and embracing a new normal. That refusal to step back and instead step up is something I have seen day in and day out in my other fellow veterans and DAV members, including Korea veteran John Karr and Vietnam veteran Larry Taylor.
We must always remember our heroes like area veterans and Maney. They never gave up on us, and we can't give up on them.
Vocalizing our gratitude to veterans is a good start, but illustrating our thanks through action is most impactful. Please visit DAV.org to learn how you, too, can help give back to the men and women who served.
Birchel Baker, Past State Commander, Kentucky
Disabled American Veterans
Army, Vietnam Era
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America's injured heroes on Capitol Hill; providing employment resources to veterans and their families; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life, DAV, a nonprofit organization with more than 1 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932. Learn more at DAV.org.