American300 Baja 100 Tour comes to Malmstrom
By Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 19, 2012
MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
Members of the American300 Baja 1000 Tour journeyed to Malmstrom Air Force Base June 12 to 14 once again to share the strong-willed and inspiring spirits of three successful athletes.
Robi Powers, founder of the American300 Warrior Tours, brought along Mike Schultz, Chris Ridgway and Jim Wazny, all amputees still competing in MotoX events. Throughout their visit to the base, the adaptive athletes shared their life-changing stories with many Airmen in hopes of promoting the tours' ongoing theme, "Never Quit."
"The American300 Never Quit mission is to bring amazing Americans to the Air Force Global Strike Command bases," Powers said. "What an honor it is to be bringing, for the fourth time to this base, amazing Americans in the form of the world's best adaptive MotoX racers. They're all XGames medalists and athletes who lost their legs in competition but didn't quit - didn't give up."
Schultz was a thriving athlete who competed almost year-round in either MotoX or SnoX events. He was determined to compete as much as he could in either sport until a day of misfortune challenged his career. In December, 2008, Schultz lost his left leg after sustaining major injuries in a racing accident. Although losing an extremity could be considered life-altering, Schultz was determined not to let it make a difference. He worked diligently to build himself a knee and prosthetic leg that would allow him to efficiently operate his dirt bike and snowmobile. In 2010, after only a short two years of overcoming many stressful hardships, he became the first amputee in history to capture gold in ESPN's winter and summer XGames.
Ridgway also competes in MotoX events using a prosthetic left leg. He obtained severe injuries to both of his legs in 1995 during a practice when his motorcycle malfunctioned; however, his journey back onto the bike was painful and one he had to ask for, literally. Following his accident, he begged doctors not to amputate his leg, not knowing it would cause tremendous amounts of pain. After years of agonizing pain in every step he took, he began begging doctors to ignore his initial request. He had reached the end of a long line of doctors refusing to amputate when he threatened to do it himself. Then, in 2002, his left leg was finally amputated. He shared his long, painful journey back into doing what he loved to uphold the importance of quality of life.
"I came here to try to cheer you guys up and lift your spirits," Ridgway said speaking to members of Team Malmstrom, "and it's actually working the other way around for me. You guys are lifting me up. I want to thank you guys for what you're doing for our country and for what you're doing for me individually."
Wazny lifted spirits of those around him by making goals in the MotoX sport and working hard to reach them. He started at an amateur race level, setting his sights on joining the professional ranks of MotoX. In 2000, during one of his practices on his way to the top, Wazny unknowingly ran a course that would change his life forever. He hit a jump on the course and landed on the bucket of a front-end loader that was blocking the bottom severing his left leg and severely injuring his left arm. Neither Wazny nor the worker was aware of each other's presence at the track. Since his recovery from the accident, he has gotten back into MotoX and even SnoX. He also devotes some of his time working as a prosthetic technician and putting on life clinics to help other amputees achieve their goals.
"I pretty much thought life was over and kind of went through some bad times," Wazny said. "But I pulled through it and got sick of all of the doctors, surgeons and therapists telling me that I'd never run again, ride a bike and never do any of the fun things that I was accustomed to doing. One day it kind of clicked and I didn't understand why they were telling me what I can and cannot do. So I hopped on my bike and started riding. My one year anniversary of the day I lost my leg, I was back on the track and hit the same jump successfully."
These three individuals toured Malmstrom sharing their stories with Airmen in different units of the base. They visited the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron mechanic shop, Airman's Center, asset transportation shop, and the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron power pro and asphalt teams. They also had the chance to sit down with members of the base's Airman's Council for breakfast at the Elkhorn dining facility.
"It was actually nice - very uplifting - having them come here and explain their stories especially when they've been through a lot in their lives," said Airman 1st Class Michael Natan, 341st LRS vehicle and equipment apprentice. "It shows that you should never give up; you should never give in. In all actuality, happiness does come from within and it shows within these guys that they have the drive to keep going no matter what."
"We think some of our feats are just too rough to handle, but I see what these guys go through and it's [unbelievable] that they can overcome something like this," added Airman 1st Class Taelyr Strunk, 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron member. "It just makes it feel like the little things are things that we can overcome no matter what."
As amputees still advancing their careers as MotoX athletes, their message was easily about overcoming obstacles, but along their journey around Malmstrom, they also tried to motivate young Airmen to be active.
"Get outside and do something exciting," Schultz said. "I encourage you to go out there and do something fun and just have a ball with it."
The American300 Baja 1000 Tour's stop at Malmstrom was nothing short of exciting. Schultz, Ridgway and Wazny left the base accomplishing one more goal - inspiring and educating Airmen on the importance of never giving up.
"It's very impressing to see them do this," Strunk said. "I feel like I can accomplish anything."