WASHINGTON (Amy News Service, June 26, 2012) -- For the first time in the Army's history, a double amputee has taken the reins as garrison commander of a major installation.
Col. Gregory D. Gadson assumed command June 25, 2012, of Fort Belvoir, Va., an 47,000-strong garrison currently in its 100th year of service.
Gadson, a 1989 West Point grad and member of the football team was returning from a memorial service in Baghdad for two Soldiers from his brigade on May 7, 2007, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. He lost both legs above the knee and suffered a severe injury to his right arm.
He became one of the first Soldiers fitted with a next-generation powered prosthetic knee. It allows amputees to walk with a more natural gait. Rather than taking a medical retirement, Gadson requested to stay on active duty.
As of June 1, about 1,000 Soldiers in the Army Wounded Warrior program, or AW2, of 11,117 Soldiers and veterans have amputation injuries. Sixty-nine amputees have returned to active duty in the current conflict under the Continue on Active Duty, or COAD program. Eight more have returned to serve with the Army National Guard.
Gadson returned to active duty to serve almost two years as director of the AW2 program before being selected to command Fort Belvoir. On Monday he was presented the Belvoir command colors by Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, commander, Army Installation Management Command, on Long Parade Field across from post headquarters.
"He has shown that it isn't about what you cannot do, it's about what you can do," Ferriter said of Gadson. "He's able to lead and get right to things that need to happen."
Gadson's role as the director of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program enabled him to do a lot of good, Ferriter added.
"He was able to reassure personally those newly wounded who are looking down a long road to recovery and to motivate Soldiers and civilians alike," he said. "So today we know Greg brings his relentless, positive attitude, his compassion, drive and commitment to serve every day.
Gadson kept his remarks short, thanking his family, the Army medical team he credited with saving his life, and Army leadership for "giving me this opportunity to continue to serve ... not only to serve, but to lead.
"This morning I stand before you thrilled and privileged to be part of the Fort Belvoir community, but at the same time I'm very humbled to be reminded of all those who helped me through to this point in my career," he said. "Whatever I've done to reach this point in my career is more testament to the Soldiers, leaders and employees for which I serve and certainly the patience and support of my family."