By Sgt. Maj. Thomas J. Brouillette, Louisiana Army National GuardAugust 30, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 30, 2016) - It was a typical Monday morning as we made preparations for a motorcycle ride. After our usual safety brief, my wife and I, along with two other senior NCOs and their wives, hit the road. It was April 20, 2012, and I had no idea my life was about to change forever.
We started the ride as we'd done in the past; I was the lead bike and the other two were in a staggered formation behind me. We were following a brown pickup truck heading south on Louisiana Highway 107 when the young driver made a quick stop and hit his blinker to make a left turn. Rather than turning, though, he sat in the roadway even though there was no oncoming traffic. I blew my horn several times so he would go, but he sped off instead of turning.
We traveled another half-mile or so behind the truck when the driver suddenly turned into oncoming traffic. A motorist in the northbound lane swerved into the southbound lane (my lane) to avoid a head-on collision with the truck. After seeing me, however, he took evasion action to avoid hitting our line of motorcycles and pulled back into the southbound lane, colliding with the pickup on the right-rear side.
When I saw the vehicle come into my lane, I hit the rear brake extremely hard, which caused my motorcycle to fishtail to the left. One of the riders to my rear had glanced off the roadway and didn't see what had happened ahead. He struck me with his motorcycle at about 55 mph, hitting my right leg with his front tire and causing our motorcycles to become entangled.
When I realized we were going down, I reached back with my left arm and grabbed my wife around the shoulder area and pulled her close to me. Fortunately, luck was on our side, and she landed on top of me as we hit the ground. The other motorcycle also hit the ground, slamming both passengers to the asphalt.
As my wife and I laid on the roadway, I asked if she was OK. She said she was. I then looked around to see if the other riders were OK. I spotted the driver, but I couldn't find his wife. I eventually heard her screaming, "Please don't let me die!" Just then, the driver of the third bike ran up to me and said, "Sergeant major, don't move or try to get up. Your right leg is broken. Stay put."
Shock started setting in. I was laying on my back with my toes pointed to the ground and my heel facing upward. I was also bleeding from several areas of my body. I could feel the hot asphalt burning my skin, but all I could think about was my friend's wife still screaming for help. Several people who witnessed the accident stopped to render first aid. I could hear them in the background saying, "We have two critical people laying on the road," as they were speaking to the 911 dispatcher.
When the emergency medical technicians arrived, they placed me on a gurney and loaded me into the ambulance. That's when I noticed my wife was already inside. As we laid side by side holding hands, all we could say to each other was, "Now that's a ride I never want to take again."
At the hospital, a Louisiana state trooper asked, "Sir, who taught you to ride a motorcycle and do what you did. Because today you saved four lives."
My response was easy. I said, "Sir, my motorcycle training kicked in. I knew what to do, how to do it and when to do it."
"Wow," the trooper said. "I wish that type of training was a requirement to get a license so I could see more favorable results in motorcycle accidents."
After several surgeries, numerous hours of physical therapy and a will to live and continue serving my country, I am now able to walk and run without any aid. Yes, I was lucky that day, but my Motorcycle Safety Foundation training helped keep me alive. All of the riders that day had taken the training. I'm living proof it saves lives. Take it, learn it and apply it. It's why I am still around today.
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