Chris Klodt pushed his wheelchair through the cavernous cargo hold of a C-17 Globemaster III. Cot-racks were bolted to the floor in configuration for medical evacuation, carrying life-support equipment and medical supplies. He remembers very little about the day 10 years ago when a life-saving cabin much like this one carried him from Afghanistan to Lanstuhl Regional Medical Center. The time Klodt spent at LRMC was part of a string of events that changed this former Canadian soldier’s life, and he recently returned to piece back together what happened there.
In 2006 Klodt was serving with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry when an ambush left him with multiple bullet wounds, including one in the neck.
“Even when I was at Lanstuhl they weren’t sure if I was gonna make it,” Klodt said. “Both my lungs had collapsed, and the shot in my chest broke my sternum. They flew my parents out here to say goodbye, but I’m one tough bird I guess.”
Klodt lost all hand and leg function as well as all sensation below his chest and has limited arm function.
Though Klodt said he has come a long way in his rehab, there was another step to moving on that he wanted to accomplish. He returned to Germany along with Kent Hehr, minister of Veterans Affairs Canada, and an Invictus Games athlete and observed a C-17 Globemaster III static display configured for aeromedical evacuation, toured LRMC, and met and spoke with 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and LRMC personnel.
“It’s important to put the pieces back together because it’s part of my history,” Klodt said. “If you know where you’ve been, you know where you’re going. It gives me direction in life.”
Klodt took time to thank those who treat wounded service members, including some who were still around from the time that he came through. Along the way, personnel embraced him and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to meet.
“What incredible care that goes on here,” Klodt said. “Not only to the individual who’s been injured but the family that comes to meet with them. You can’t say enough good things about these people. The hospital is absolutely incredible. It was so humbling because I lost seven days of my life there and it helps to fill in the gaps.”
Though the damage Klodt sustained from his wounds was crippling, since his time at LRMC he has trained himself to function.
“I’m back to a new normal, absolutely,” Klodt said. “I’m completely independent for a quadriplegic. I’m just moving on.”
“Moving on” may be an understatement. Klodt became an athlete, competing in full-contact rugby, or “murderball,” and is scheduled to captain his team in the 2017 Invictus Games. The Invictus Games is an international, multisport event in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel compete.
Having returned to Ramstein and LRMC, thanked the personnel and even met some of the people who were at LRMC 10 years ago, Klodt said that he is now very focused on the upcoming competition and his conditioning.
“I’m going to give the U.S. team a run for their money,” Klodt said with a smile.
The life changing events of 10 years ago have not stopped this vet from embracing the challenge of life. He, along with many other wounded military service members, are soldiering on.