From enlisted to officer…an injured Soldier’s journey to recovery and a new reality

By MaryTherese GriffinOctober 11, 2023

DoD Warrior Games 2019
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Sgt. Tanner Kane takes off for the cycling event, June 23, 2019, at the timed cycling competition during the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games. The DoD Warrior Games are conducted June 21 - 30, hosted by Special Operations Command, Tampa, Florida. It is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. Approximately 300 athletes representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Armed Forces of the Netherlands, and the Danish Armed Forces will compete in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, field, wheelchair basketball, indoor rowing, powerlifting, and for the first time in Warrior Games history, golf, wheelchair tennis, and wheelchair rugby. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Seara Marcsis) (Photo Credit: Pfc. Seara Marcsis) VIEW ORIGINAL
From enlisted to officer…an injured Soldier’s journey to recovery and a new reality
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Tanner Kane)

Tanner Kane is back at a healthy weight, lifting 500 lbs. after jaw surgery the year before. (Photo Credit: Courtesy)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Staff Sgt. Tanner Kane always knew he wanted a career in the US Army. He never imagined going from enlisted to being an officer, yet that’s what is on the horizon for the former infantryman turned recruiter and soon-to-be student.

His path to today began back in 2012 while at Airborne School. “I had a rough jump – it was an airborne accident. It was a really windy day; it was a rough landing, and the risers came up and hit me in the face when I released my chute. The medics said I was fine.” Only he wasn’t.

Osteoarthritis started forming in his jaw, making his bite uneven while deteriorating both joints. After several years of struggling, Kane was assigned to the Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) at Fort Carson, Colo.

“I knew nothing about the SRU until I got there. For me, two weeks after I showed up to the SRU, my unit deployed, and it was one of those deployments where they were really doing things, and that’s why I joined in the first place. So, I felt like a broken toy on the shelf,” said Kane, who added the mental toll was equally as frustrating as the physical one on him and his wife and children.

“I was bummed I couldn’t do my job. My only job was to get better, and I needed other things to do. Adaptive Sports helped. Marc Cattapan, an Adaptive Reconditioning Support Specialist at Fort Carson’s SRU, specialized in cycling and put out invites to all to cycle. My Dad cycles, and I thought, okay, I will meet with him and give it a try,” said the 2019 Member of Team Army, who won multiple medals at the 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa.

“The adaptive sports were what helped me stay focused and active. I didn’t want to transition out, which would have been easy to do,” said Kane, who refused the option to med board out multiple times. He tells new Soldiers at the SRU how the Army helps through the Army Recovery Care Program and beyond.

“Stay involved. If you only do what is expected of you, then you are going to get really bored, and you will have nothing to work toward because no one is telling you to do this job; they are telling you to get better. For example, participating in sports gives you a goal, not just something to complete.”

Kane’s two years in the SRU focused on adaptive sports and later education. He returned to duty but a different duty. His new job was recruiting, which he said was very supportive of his continued recovery.

“I had surgery in July of 2019 - The recovery itself was pretty brutal because I couldn’t chew. I lost a ton of weight. I was down to 126 pounds when I got fully cleared, so I was pretty tiny. Thankfully, recruiting gave me a little free time to do PT [Physical Training] on my own, so I got back into the gym and got the weight back on and healthy again.”

When Kane thinks of where he started and where he is now, his job has completely changed, and he has challenges for his family and a new horizon in the Army; he knows at the core he made the right decision to join and to remain in the Army.

“The Army has been very good to our family. Sure, we don’t make a ton of money, but we get compensated in other ways. And the fact that I got to recover in the SRU and got paid as if I was doing my job. “And now I am going through the Green to Gold program, and my job will literally be to go to class,” said the business major who will be a 2nd Lt. in 21 months. He is grateful beyond words for the support the Army gives.

“All the work that was done to my face was easily six figures worth of medical to fix me. The Army took care of that. Our first child was in the NICU for a week, and it was about a $30k bill; the Army took care of that, too.” From tuition assistance to grants, Tanner has worked hard and said that, unlike high school, he now maintains a 4.0 throughout all the schooling the Army has afforded to him. He wants to give back to the source who provided so much. He says now it’s a no-brainer.

“We love being around military families; they are our kind of people. The Army’s been great to us, and we’re going to keep doing it.”