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The fighter

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

It’s 7 p.m. on Friday, September 23, 2016. I have the weekend off. Tonight is my club’s motorcycle event. So I head over to the hotel and start setting up. My buddy calls and asks if I can have some water bottles ready for him. I put my helmet on, tighten the straps, hold the ignition and crank the handle on my bright red bike. As I approach the intersection, the smallest voice tells me to turn left and just go to the convenience shop. Instead, I turn right and head for the gas station. Before I know it, I’m forced to make the fastest, and possibly most important decision of my life. I slam on my back brake as a car illegally turns in front of me. Do I dodge left and hit the semi, or cut right into oncoming traffic?

No, I have to hit the brakes and prepare myself for the 20 feet that the police report says I skid across the highway after a drunken driver strikes me.

A helicopter lands near U.S. Air Force Senior Airman DeMarcus Garrett, a 509th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, and rushes him to the best trauma hospital in the area.

“They closed the door and warned me it was going to be very loud,” said Garrett. “Finally, I heard the turbines slowing down then I cracked a joke and the doctors rushed me inside.”

Despite the popular thought that he wouldn’t, Garrett woke Sunday, to his friends, family and fellow Airmen.

“I had every wire known to man in me,” said Garrett. “I was told I would be in a wheelchair until February 2017. “I watched myself deflate in that hospital,” Garrett added. “I felt like a stick figure with a cantaloupe head.”

The sterile smell of rubbing alcohol and the monitors attached to him weren’t going to define him anymore. The fight to heal would instead.

The healing process started with baby steps, such as eating healthy and keeping a positive attitude.

“The first, and only thing, I would eat were carrots,” said Garrett. “My mom would always tell me orange stuff would make my eyes pretty. Every day, she would call and read scriptures and pray with me.”

“I’m a fighter” became Garrett’s new mantra.

He began physical therapy and saw improvements little by little, day by day.

Garrett was discharged from the hospital on October 18, 2016, and became a part of the Air Force Wounded Warrior program. His first event was in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I didn’t realize how much I needed that until I was there,” said Garrett. “Being around like-minded people who have been through so much helped my recovery.”

Garrett continued to fight, his motivation to get back into his routine in the gym and fulfilling his duties as an Airman drove him.

“I make the most out of every day,” said Garrett. “I don’t take people for granted anymore.”

Although Garrett suffered from a broken tibia and fibula, fractured wrist, collar bone and sternum, bruised kidney and lung, class IV lacerations to his liver and shattered right side of his pelvis, he was still alive. He has his helmet to thank for that.

“Five hundred and seventy-three dollars saved my life,” said Garrett.

Riders can’t control what other motorists do, but they do have control over how prepared they are if disaster strikes.

“Motorists should double and triple-check for bikes,” said Garrett. “When that fails, the best a rider can do to react is think through options and follow your gut.”

Being an experienced rider of 12 years, Garrett always puts safety first.

“It’s inevitable to have fun on a sport bike,” said Garrett. “However, I have never tried to be cool on a motorcycle.”

Living out his second chance, Garrett says he has been humbled and will never let his guard down when riding or driving.

“My mom told me if I get another bike she will come slash my tires,’” said Garrett.

Despite his mother’s concern, Garrett says he will ride again.

“If you break your ankle in basketball, you let that bone heal and get back to what you love,” said Garrett.