The Greek historian Plutarch once said, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” In other words, your brain is only as powerful as you make it. Often, people complain about the smallest things in life and forget to realize the things they do have. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done it myself. We get so wrapped up into things going on in our lives that we tend to forget how good we have it.
For one man, giving up and expecting sorrow has never been an option. This is the story about retired U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Daniel Meyer.
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I had the truly special opportunity to speak with Sgt. Meyer in an interview via phone. Right from the start I could tell that he was a very humble individual that was willing to talk about anything. Sgt. Meyer is a 29-year-old wounded warrior who was medically retired due to injuries he sustained while deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meyer and his wife, Harmonie, currently live in Las Vegas.
Meyer enlisted into the Air Force after high school in 2006 and was then stationed at Nellis Air Force Base as an Aircraft Electrical and Environmental Systems Specialist. Meyer spent time at his unit until he was deployed to Iraq in October 2007 through March 2008. He returned to Nellis AFB to serve with his unit at home until March 2009, when he was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan until June 2009.
What follows is our touching conversation as I experienced it.
Bunkers Paradise: Good Evening Sgt. Meyer, my name is Manny and I am with Bunkers Paradise. All of us at Bunkers Paradise would first like to deeply thank you for your service and dedication to our country. It means the world to us to have Americans such as yourself fighting for our freedom day in and out. We can’t thank you enough and certainly appreciate all you have done for this country. If any question I ask feels too personal, please feel free to pass on answering it. We have some background on your deployment and military service, now can you please talk about what it was like and how you sustained the injuries you are currently living with today?
Meyer: Thank you for having me… The first thing I’d like to talk about are the burn pits we have to work in while in a deployed area. The military has burn pits that are basically as the title says, except the pits are designed to burn all the waste that we did not need or had to get rid of. Items burned in the pits include chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions and other unexploded ordnance. While I was deployed to Iraq, I worked in the burn pits and that’s where it all started. The first symptoms I noticed off the back were heavy coughing and nose bleeds. I would often blow my nose and look to see blood and all types of dirt particles. When I was deployed to Afghanistan, the coughing only got worse and I began to feel a negative difference in my body overall.
BP: That is definitely tough and I can only imagine the suffering you were going through. It seems you weren’t given the proper care despite all the symptoms you experienced. Can you tell us what you were eventually diagnosed with?
Meyer: It was most definitely the hardest thing to deal with when you’re telling doctors one thing and they are trying to make you feel another. In July of 2010 I was sent to Hawaii for a temporary duty assignment and it made my symptoms worse as I would get winded just walking to my car and up the stairs. What I didn’t know was the humidity in the air is what ultimately brought my case to its worse stage. Finally I was able to get the proper care and in February 2011, I was diagnosed with Bronchiolitis Obliterans.
BP: You know Sgt. Meyer, you are by far one of the strongest human beings I have ever come in contact with and I truly commend you for never giving up. Despite everything going on with your health, you were still committed to fulfilling your duties along with going beyond what you knew you could do physically. Please tell us how you were eventually medically retired?
Meyer: It was a part of the job, Manny and I would do it all over again if I had to. My sacrifices that I have given came from the heart and it was all for a reason. So around April of 2011 I was at an all-time low with my health. My health was affecting my duties and performance at work. It was tough for me to literally do anything while coughing from day to night and feeling like I couldn’t breathe. In June of 2011 I began to notice lumps appearing in the back of my knees. My knees and legs began to swell up and pain spread all throughout my legs keeping me from walking around much. I found out that they were large fat masses that were wrapped around my arteries and knees. By November of 2011 I was unable to walk anymore due to the severity of the pain and I was placed into a wheel chair. The pain has since gotten worse into my quads and calves.
Meyer: Yes I do. I have a home health aide that comes 6 days a week for 2 hours each day and gets me going for each day. She also helps me with my oxygen tanks. Since my lungs cannot function on their own properly, I have been placed on oxygen. My dosage began with 1 liter and is now up to 4 liters per minute. Eventually I’m going to need a double lunge transplant.
BP: Hearing all of this really makes me thankful for all that I have and I honestly could not imagine going through all you have nor what you still face daily. Thank you for telling us this info on your health background. I’d like to get into a different subject now and it is on your dedication and love for the sport of golf. Tell me about how you first go into it. Did anyone in particular get you to try it out? Did you play when you were a kid or anything of that sort?
Meyer: Well I did watch golf on TV during my childhood and I’ve always had an interest in it since then. I really never got to play it though due to the expenses that were involved in it. What really got me into it started with a friend of mine that actually has the same disability as me, just not as bad. My friend was invited to the Harmon’s Heroes camp in 2011 and the following year he was asked if he knew someone who might be interested in attending. Well he did and I was the chosen one to go. So in November of 2012 I was invited to Butch Harmon’s School of Golf to attend the Harmon’s Heroes event. I was assigned an instructor by the name of Vic Wilks.
It was a brand new task for him as he had to figure out how to instruct me from a wheelchair. The swing had to be completely different due to my circumstances. So Vic placed himself into a chair and began going through his own process of learning how to swing while placed into a chair. The day went on as I practiced my swing and I began to hit the ball fairly well. In fact the entire staff there was very surprised of how well I could hit the ball while being confined to a wheelchair.
So the next day the Titleist tour van was out at the camp to help fit all of us for our clubs. Titleist had to flatten the lie angle in my irons as much as they could due to my swing. It was an honor because we were given a full set of clubs along with the bag. It was definitely an experience I will never forget. The instruction I received was top notch and it really got me interested in doing some golf instructing myself.
BP: That really is an incredible experience to hear about and I am glad you got to be there. You definitely deserve all that you received and I’m thrilled everyone took care of you and everyone else very well. Can you tell us how golf has helped you cope with your injuries?
Meyer: Well I appreciate that and it certainly was a special event for us all. Certainly, to start with the physical aspect of the game, it has allowed me to get the most exercise I can get out of any sport. My body just won’t allow me to do anything that requires a lot of intense physical movements. Mentally golf has helped me by keeping my mind off of the bad things going on and I truly love the sport so it has kept me feeling positive.
BP: I can bet this game will stick with you forever because it’s very addicting. Would you recommend golf to other wounded warriors of all types?
Meyer: Absolutely! I would recommend golf to any wounded warrior without a doubt. It has helped me tremendously and I can almost guarantee it would help others as well. Playing this game would create some camaraderie between us all and it would be great because we could cheer each other on.
BP: That’s definitely a plus to hear. I’m sure our readers will love hearing about this for any wounded warriors they may know. What other hobbies do you have? Also, what are some of your future plans and goals?
Meyer: Some things I also love to do is to spend time with my wife. The time is priceless and she has been by my side since day one. I like to hang out with my four dogs and I also like to play video games as well as watching movies. My future goals include improving my golf game and getting very proficient. I really want to be able to help out other wounded warriors with their game as well as people from every walk of life.
BP: If there is anything you want the readers to know, what would it be?
Meyer: I’d like to ask that if anyone knows a veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq to please watch out for their health. Be very careful while near any burn pits and take care of your health immediately. The effects can take years to show up and you don’t always have symptoms quickly.
I’d like to personally thank Sgt. Daniel Meyer for giving us his time and allowing me to interview him. The entire interview was true and touching. A couple of times I caught tears streaming down my face as I listened to his story and even struggled to ask questions at some moments. Sgt. Meyer is a very humble individual and there’s nothing more we at Bunkers Paradise would like to see than his dreams come true.
Sgt. Meyer is a living testimonial of just how you can live your life no matter the circumstances that surround you. You will only go as far as your brain allows you to. There are no limits in life and if you really want something, you must go out and get it. Never give up on any dream or goal you may have. Just remember it’s never too late to achieve your goals.
The entire staff at Bunkers Paradise would like to thank Sgt. Meyer as well as the men and women of the armed forces for all that they do for our country. Your service and dedication is by no means ever forgotten by us. Thank you for your continued selfless acts as you all defend our freedom day in and out. Freedom is not free and for that, we salute you!
After meeting Butch Harmon during his time at the Harmon’s Heroes event, instructor Vic Wilks became a good friend of Meyer’s. Wilks took Meyer out several times working with him on his golf game. One day Wilks came to Meyer with the idea of putting a full scale golf simulator in his house since Meyer couldn’t easily get out of the house or go play a round. Of course he loved the idea and Wilks went to Butch Harmon to get his thoughts. Harmon and Wilks then came up with a plan, utilizing Foresights Golf Simulators to create an indoor golfing experience for Meyer.
Harmon and Wilks talked with Foresights Sports and they were willing to cover $20,000 of the $40,000 total cost. If Meyer could put together the other $20,000 it would be a done deal. So the Harmon’s Heroes Foundation fronted the first donation to get the ball rolling. Through a lot of hard work, Meyer raised another $7,000. There was one other anonymous donor who pledged $7,000 but then backed out and now he is short $7,000. Meyer did not come to Bunkers Paradise asking for money. We loved his story and when we found out that he needed some help, we jumped at the chance to spread the word.
We would like to see the golf community share the story as well and try to help Mayer achieve his goal. Meyer explained to me that by having the simulator in his house, he will not only be able to play golf courses he would normally never get the chance to play, but it will help his overall health. He has been struggling with back-strength issues as of late and this will help him build up his core muscles.
So, if you would like to donate to Sgt. Daniel Meyer’s cause, you can do it a few ways. First, you can share this message with everyone you know.
Also, you can donate money with a credit/debit card. Click on the attachment HERE and then email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Where it says reference number, write in Daniel Meyer.
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