Allen B. West

Operation Backbone helps severely wounded warriors make incredible recoveries

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The night hadn’t gone as planned. The mission had been scrubbed and the four armored Humvees flew down the dark Afghan highway, lights out, dust flying, engines straining against the added weight of the armor. Lieutenant Colonel (then Major) Eric Holt, D.O., an anesthesiologist attached to the Air Force’s Special Operations Command (AFSOC), sat behind the driver in the last vehicle, as they raced to return safely to base.

Eric scanned the left side of the road, night vision goggles on, his M-4 assault rifle directed out the window as the cold night air streamed in. He remembers offering the driver an energy drink when something went terribly wrong. The sound – muffled by his military hearing protection – was followed by the sickening sensation of being crushed like an aluminum can, as an IED tore the vehicle apart.

Eric was thrown 100 feet into the air and smashed into a wall. His multiple injuries included skull, facial, cervical and thoracic injuries.

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But now, not only is Eric back practicing medicine, he’s actually training with the Buffalo Sabres NHL team – not on the ice, but as part of Operation Backbone, a non-profit organization for severely injured active duty and veteran warriors.

Operation Backbone was founded by Navy veteran Mike Sformo after he severely injured his back. The non-profit organization provides crucial brain and spine surgical treatments for the most severely wounded active duty and veteran warriors who need an accelerated substitute to their current care options. Post-surgery physical and mental training is provided by the Buffalo Sabres NHL team.

Currently, Operation Backbone serves the Buffalo, New York area, but Sformo hopes to expand to other cities. To that, he needs our support. Listen to some of these stories, and I’m sure you’ll want to help him out.

Find out what you can do to help Operation Backbone here.

Notice anything curious about TIME's Trump cover? Take a good look...

Notice anything curious about TIME's Trump cover? Take a good look...

UNREAL: What OSU terrorist was doing before attack is beyond IRONIC...

UNREAL: What OSU terrorist was doing before attack is beyond IRONIC...