A soldier went above and beyond duty when he amputated his own leg to save the lives of his crew members after a freak accident.
Stationed in Poland as part of a NATO operation, Colorado-born Ezra Maes, 21, participated in a night-time training exercise when he and his two crew members fell asleep in their tank and woke up to see it ride down a hill.
Maes called on the driver to "step into the breaks," believing that the frightening awakening would all be part of an elaborate joke.
But the driver desperately insisted that this was not the case and told him that the parking stop had failed and that the emergency brakes were not responding.
It was later discovered that the 65-tonne M1A1 Abrams had sustained a hydraulic leak, but because all operational systems failed and the 90 MPH tank broke down the hill, Maes and his crew had no choice but to shock for impact.
Depicted with fellow survivors Sgt. Aechere Crump (left) and Pfc. Victor Alamo (right), Colorado-born Ezra Maes, 21, participated in a night training exercise when he and his two crew members fell asleep in their tank and woke up to see it crashing down a hill
It would later be discovered that the 65-tonne M1A1 Abrams had suffered a hydraulic leak, but with all operational systems failed, and with the tank down the hill at 90 MPH, Maes and his crew had no choice but to shock for impact
"We realized that there was nothing else we could do and we just kept it up," Maes said in a press release.
After a few sharp bumps, the tank crashed at full speed into a dyke, Maes threw forward and made sure his leg got stuck in the turret.
The armored personnel felt the full power of the tank dome slide on his leg. He thought his leg was broken, but he continued to worry more about the injuries sustained by his crew.
The driver of the tank, Victor Alamo, was detained after he slammed his head through the driver's hatch and slowed his back.
Sgt. Aechere Crump, the artilleryman, had dislocated her leg and was bleeding profusely from a deep cut in her thigh.
Maes immediately realized that he had torn her femoral artery.
Determined to help his crew members, Maes began to turn and turn around to get rid of the gear transmission in the belief that his uniformed on the maimed metal hooked in front of him.
"I pushed and pulled my leg as hard as I could to get free and felt a sharp tear," Maes said. "I thought I had loosened my leg, but when I left, my leg was completely gone."
Determined to help his crew members, Maes began to turn and turn around trying to break free of the gear transmission in the belief that his uniformed body was in front of the mass of deformed metal. "I pushed and pulled my leg as hard as I could to get free and felt a sharp tear," Maes said. "I thought I had loosened my leg, but when I left, my leg was completely gone."
Released from the pressure of the turret, blood quickly began to seep out of Maes's wound, but with the lives of Crump and Alamo at stake, Maes persisted in panic and pain and pulled himself up and into the back of the tank to grab a medical kit.
Halfway through, Maes said he was starting to feel lightheaded from the blood loss.
"I knew I was in shock," he said. & # 39; The only thing I could think of was that nobody knows we are here. & # 39;
Maes added that he knew that the hope of survival rested on his shoulders.
"Either I get up or we'll all die," he recalled.
Maes immediately started shock procedures for himself and his crew, ordered them to focus on their breathing and told them to fasten their belts in improvised tourniquets to stop bleeding.
The tank's radio systems were destroyed during the crash and their cell phones were dead or broken – anything but one.
Incredibly, Maes's phone began to ring. Cramp crawled there, one leg broken and the other heavily cut, and threw it at him, where he texted a friend for help.
What happened next largely remains a haze for Maes, with his last memory of the incident a picture of his Sergeant Major running up a hill with his leg on his shoulder.
"I wanted to keep it, see if it could be confirmed again, but it was crushed," thought Maes.
Released from the pressure of the turret, blood quickly began to seep out of Maes's wound, but with the lives of Crump and Alamo at stake, Maes persisted in panic and pain and pulled himself up and into the back of the tank to grab a medical kit
He was then rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered that he had also broken his ankle, pelvis in three places, and his shoulder.
Maes spent four months in intensive care between an infection he picked up during transport and almost daily operations to ward it off.
"I feel super happy," he said. "My crew does all of that. So many things have gone wrong. Next to my leg we all walked away almost intact. & # 39;
A year later, the 21-year-old is still undergoing physiotherapy and occupational therapy at the Center for the Intrepid, the rehabilitation center of BAMC. He does yoga, kayaks, works with assistance dogs up to three times a week – and just about anything else he can do to stay active.
Maes is currently equipped for a long-term prosthetic leg, a permanent implant that he can & # 39; click and engage & # 39 ;.
Despite the life-changing outcome of that fateful night, Maes insists that he has been given a second chance at life and believes that this is the best thing that has ever happened to him.
I will probably say that for the rest of my life, & he said Fox news. "I wake up every day and look at it, and I remember how close I lost it all. And I'm still here.
"I was able to survive, and this is just the scar I left."
Maes, whose great-grandfather served in the army, now hopes to become a prosthetician and help others regain their mobility.
"When something like this happens, it's easy to give up because your life won't be the same and you're not wrong," he said.
"Life lasts 180, but it doesn't have to be a bad thing. Don't let it prevent you from moving forward. & # 39;
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