By Annette P. GomesJune 30, 2019
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kohl McLeod: Team support on and off the field
By Annette P. Gomes, Army Warrior Care Transition
TAMPA, Fla. -- May 20, 2018 is the date U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kohl McLeod says his world changed forever. A near fatal accident nearly claimed his life. As McLeod headed toward Fort Benning, Georgia, a driver pulled out in front of his motorcycle causing him to crash (T-Bone) directly into the driver's truck.
"I sustained a fractured jaw that required it to be wired shut, a fractured collar bone, facial trauma, seven broken ribs, a dislocated elbow and shoulder, a torn liver and suffered a severe brain injury," said McLeod.
Ever the optimist, McLeod focused on his healing at Fort Benning's Warrior Transition Battalion, but says the process was challenging. A challenge he faced head on.
"I was a Drill Sergeant at the time of my accident. I was going from long days of training future Infantrymen to feeling lost and having more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. My recovery period was hard. The WTB has been a catalyst during this process and has presented me with a new sense of direction and new opportunities, mainly because of the Warrior Games," McLeod said.
An avid athlete growing up in Michigan, McLeod turned to adaptive reconditioning sports for inspiration. As an alternate for Team Army, McLeod's drive and determination would ultimately pay off as he competed at the 2019 Warrior Games.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm a 10," McLeod laughed. "It's all been a new experience for me considering this is the first time I've ever done any of these sports over the past nine months.
Competing means everything to me especially after my accident, because it wasn't overseas or combat related, and I felt like a failure. I was told that I will be getting medically discharged from the Army and losing my career. I felt like I had nothing to strive for anymore. The military is everything to me and I felt as if I let everyone down," he added.
Since arriving in Tampa for Warrior Games, McLeod's performance has been lifting everyone up with his drive to succeed. He earned a bronze medal during the air pistol competition. However, the Infantryman says the event goes way beyond the competition.
"I was so proud to be here," he said. "I was elected as an alternate, but it wasn't about the medals. It was really about being in the Army and representing the team and I'm so happy to be here. The Games have given me purpose and something to strive for again. It's easy to get depressed when something like this happens but this team has never let me feel anything but becoming a member of the family. Nobody cares what or why it happened, they're just glad you're here to be part of the team," McLeod said.
"I look at U.S. Army retired Staff Sgt. Matt Lammers as one of my biggest heroes, that's for sure. He's a triple amputee and does all the swim events. I have never seen him in a bad mood, he's always uplifting and happy to see you even if you're having a bad day. He is a hero but he's so humbled- it's sobering. He's a man I strive to be like every day. He just keeps swimming," McLeod continued.
The Michigan native says it's really his immediate family that deserves the medals and "Shero" titles.
"My biggest supporter is my fiancée Kimberly Delcano," said McLeod. "She spent every second by my side in the hospital for over a month; even while being a Drill Sergeant. Not once has she ever made me feel or allowed me to think I was less of a man because of my accident. All through my recovery she pushed me to go further and faster. She had it harder dealing with me during this recovery than I have, but no matter what, she's always by my side encouraging me to do better. I know Kimberly and my family are just happy I'm alive and so am I."