By By Paul Kotakis, Cadet Command Public Affairs OfficerDecember 22, 2008
FORT MONROE, Va. (Dec. 22, 2008) -- The blast of a roadside bomb in Iraq's Sunni Triangle resulted in the amputation of a portion of Richard Ingram's left arm. But it did not rob him of his dream of becoming an officer in America's Army.
Ingram's dream became a reality Dec. 13 when he graduated from North Georgia College & State University and took the oath of office as a lieutenant.
He is the first individual with such severe combat injuries sustained during the Global War on Terrorism to earn a commission through the Army ROTC program.
The LaGrange, Ga. native was serving with the 48th Brigade Combat Team of the Georgia Army National Guard as a cavalry scout when his tactical vehicle was struck by an explosive device and rolled several times.
In speaking of that June 2005 experience Ingram said, "I didn't think there was any way I was going to live through it when the truck started rolling. But it was clear that I hadn't fulfilled my purpose in this life. Even though I was hurt, I knew I'd get to keep doing the things I love so much. I was being given another chance at life."
After prompt treatment by field medics, Ingram was taken to Baghdad for further treatment. The severity of his wounds was such that he was moved by air to Germany and then subsequently transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. While at Walter Reed, Ingram received physical therapy and was fitted for the prosthetic devices that allowed him to resume a more normal life.
"The care that I got at Walter Reed was great," said Ingram. "But after a while I knew that it was time to get back to North Georgia College and get on with my life and my education." So he quickly returned to classes at the school he had left when his National Guard unit was activated.
Ingram also returned to the Army ROTC program - where he quickly showed that despite the wounds sustained in combat -- he was still in excellent physical condition. After successfully completing the Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) course -- the Army ROTC training event conducted annually at Fort Lewis, Wash. -- it was clear that Ingram was fully capable of carrying out the demanding duties of an Army Officer.
Col. Michael Pyott, North Georgia College's Professor of Military Science said, "Lt. Ingram demonstrated throughout his time in ROTC that he was more than capable -- both physically and mentally -- to be a highly effective leader in our Army," said Pyott.
"Once you spend time observing Richard, you forget that he has a physical disability. He can run faster and do more physical training than most cadets. His performance led to his selection as one of our pre-camp trainers, responsible for preparing cadets to attend LDAC. He will do an outstanding job leading troops in combat and I know he will succeed in his goal to attend Airborne, Sapper and Ranger training," Pyott said.
While a full-time student at North Georgia and an Army ROTC cadet, Ingram also served as an intern for Georgia State Sen. John Douglas, the chairman of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
"I was impressed with his determination and effort to rehabilitate himself," said Douglas.
In speaking of his experiences as an intern, Ingram said, "I love actually getting to see how the government's run. It's like; this is what you're fighting for."
"I am extremely proud to have earned a commission through the Army ROTC program at North Georgia College and I look forward to serving as an Army officer," said Ingram. "I didn't decide to do this, just to get a slap on the back. I want to be an inspiration to others who were wounded."
Present at the ceremony was Ingram's mother, Janice, and his father Richard, a physician. His long-time friend, 1st Lt. Robert Morris, a 2005 graduate of North Georgia, administered the commissioning oath.
Also in attendance at the commissioning ceremony was Maj. Gen. Arthur M. Bartell, the commanding general of Cadet Command.
"I was honored to attend the ceremony at which this outstanding young man became an officer. He has already assembled a remarkable record of achievement -- both as a combat veteran -- and as a ROTC cadet. He has earned the respect of all who know him and will be a superb officer," said Bartell.
Ingram was commissioned as an Engineer and is slated to attend BOLC II in January 2009. During the past 25 years, the Army ROTC program at North Georgia College & State University has produced more than 1,000 officers.