By Paul KotakisDecember 30, 2008
FORT MONROE, Va. -- 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 Army officer.
Ingram's dream became a reality Dec. 13 when he graduated from North Georgia College and State University and became a second lieutenant.
"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," Ingram said. "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."
He is the first individual with such severe combat injuries suffered during the global war on terrorism to earn a commission through the Army ROTC program, military officials said.
"I was honored to attend the ceremony at which this outstanding young man became an officer," Maj. Gen. Arthur M. Bartell, commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command, said. "He has already assembled a remarkable record of achievement, both as a combat veteran and as a ROTC cadet."
The LaGrange, Ga., native was serving with the Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Brigade Combat Team as a cavalry scout in June 2005 when his tactical vehicle was struck by an explosive device and rolled several times.
"I didn't think there was any way I was going to live through it when the truck started rolling," Ingram said. "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."
Ingram recovered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he received physical therapy and was fitted for a prosthetic device.
"The care that I got at Walter Reed was great," Ingram said. "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." He 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 -- the Army ROTC training event conducted annually in Fort Lewis, Wash. -- it was clear that Ingram was capable of carrying out the demanding duties of an Army officer.
"Lieutenant 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," Army Col. Michael Pyott, professor of military science at North Georgia College, said.
"Once you spend time observing Richard, you forget that he has a physical disability," he continued. "He can run faster and do more physical training than most cadets. 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."
While a full-time student at North Georgia and an Army ROTC cadet, Ingram also served as an intern for U.S. Sen. John Douglas of Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
"I was impressed with his determination and effort to rehabilitate himself," Douglas said.
(Paul Kotakis works in the U.S. Army Cadet Command public affairs office.)