A freak accident may have cost Staff Sgt. Luis Elias his hand, but it hasn't stripped him of his positive attitude or impacted his plans for the future.
"Hopefully, in about a month or so, I'll be back to being a drill sergeant," said Elias, who is currently receiving treatment at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center Active Duty Rehabilitation Unit.
On June 30, Elias was training his new Soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga. when a grenade simulator exploded in his right hand leaving just his thumb. Surgeons at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center amputated the hand.
Since then, Elias has been in physical therapy learning to use a prosthetic hand and preparing for his return to active duty. A bionic hand called the ilimb is on its way, and once Elias has learned to use it, he will be back training young Soldiers.
He's hoping to go back to duty in November, but his physicians have not given him a specific date.
"It all comes down to the Soldier creed. I will never quit. I take those words to heart," said Elias, who credits his wife, Claudia, and four year-old son, Noah, with providing him the extra strength and support he has needed.
Keeping in good physical shape is an important part of the readiness to return to duty. He can do push-ups with one prosthetic device.
Also, on Sunday, Sept. 27, he competed in the running portion of the ESI Ironman 70.3 Triathlon in Augusta, finishing his 13.1 miles in two hours and five minutes. He did not compete in the swim or the bicycle portion of the race because he did not have a recreational prosthetic, he said.
Elias joined the Army about six years ago soon after high school graduation. Growing up in bad neighborhood in Miami, he saw the Army as a way to provide a better life for himself. He has served two tours in Iraq. He submitted his drill sergeant packet after returning from his second tour and had only been training new Soldiers for a few months when the incident occurred.
"It's nice to see the product from beginning to end. It's one of the joys of being a drill sergeant - seeing the transition from civilian to Soldier," he said.
When he returns to duty, he believes he can be an inspiration to his batch of new recruits.
"These Soldiers will end up going to Iraq," he said.
And maybe down range they will remember their drill sergeant with a prosthetic arm and a never quit attitude, he said.