Story by MaryTherese Griffin on 09/13/2019Wounded Warrior regains his passion for gaming and golf
By MaryTherese Griffin, U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition
ARLINGTON, Va. Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Boyle and his family faced drastic changes in their lives after he lost his right arm above the elbow and right leg below the knee in an explosion while on a mission in Afghanistan in 2010.
"It is hard to go from [doing normal activities] to re-learning how to do everything. A man takes pride in taking care of his family. Being a young man when I was injured at age 21, it was hard to imagine how I was going to do that again one day," Boyle said.
The Army's Warrior Care and Transition Program helped Boyle and his family adjust to their new normal. Boyle was assigned to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas where he went through physical and occupational therapy learning how to adapt to his situation. "With the help of the staff at Brooke Army Medical Center, I was able to slowly recover my body and find my new normal again. I had to remind myself of my beautiful wife and brand new baby son. I say to this day that they are the reason I survived and gave me strength," Boyle said.
The idea of going from an infantryman to a desk job at 22 was not appealing to Boyle so he chose to leave the Army and medically retire in July of 2012. He spends his days helping his three children. His children do not know any difference regarding their father's amputations, but they understand his situation is different from others. "My children love me no matter what. They have learned to understand that there are things I cannot do anymore and they are okay with it. Life is pretty normal in a good way. I am grateful that I get to be a part of their lives and spend these moments with them."
Through his time in adaptive reconditioning, Boyle kept reminding himself that no matter how hard the activity, there is always a way to adapt. He took that with him and applied it to everything he needed to do as well as those things he loved to do, like playing golf.
"When I first attempted to play golf I was really discouraged. It was hard to find what was going to work best. How swinging would be easy with one hand and with the least amount of strain to my shoulder," Boyle said of trying to play golf after his injuries. "I did not fully get invested back into the game until I went to the American Lake Golf Course and tried their adaptive para-golfers which is essentially a golfing wheelchair. It really changed my perspective on the game and what I had the ability to do. I started golfing more and more."
Boyle enjoyed the comradery he experienced playing golf and it allowed him to connect with his father on a deeper level as an adult. Then one day Boyle received an opportunity to play golf in St Andrews, Scotland, where the game of golf originated through the American Lake Golf Course and sponsors. "It was a once in a life time adventure. I got to experience a new culture and play a game I love. We played multiple golf courses, learned about the history of golf and the Open. I and a fellow amputee were the first to use electric golf carts on the Old Course."
Boyle has learned to do many things with and without his prosthetics like kayaking with his wife Lynn and playing video games. "One thing that I had always done as a kid was play video games. That is one thing that I was sure I would never do again because I only have one hand and it is all done with your fingers," Boyle said. "I picked up my first controller after being injured two months after leaving the hospital. It was rough at first. When I think back, I cannot help but laugh. It was awkward and I was clumsy and it was so difficult. The more I played, the deeper I got into the game and the easier it became. The more I found what positions would work with the controller, it got easier and gaming really became my escape. I was able to do it just as well as most able bodied people. I play with my mouth now and my love for gaming will never go astray again."
Boyle credits numerous individuals for helping him get to where he is today. Support staff like Army Wounded Warrior Program Advocate, Sue Maloney at American Lake Veteran Affairs Medical Center and his prosthetist, Ryan Blanck at Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, Washington with putting their heart and soul into his recovery. He insists that accepting help along the way and never doubting were his two keys to recovery and he has sound advice for those recovering from injuries or illness.
"I know this sounds clich, but never give up and do not doubt yourself. There is always a way to do something. Just try your best and you will get there," Boyle said. "Enjoy your life. Do not wall yourself away. Reach out and make connections and live each moment to its fullest."