We have an amazing story of a hero’s triumph over adversity and a testimony of his selflessness to save his brothers in arms.
According to the DoD, Army Spc. Ezra Maes, 21, amputated his own leg following a tank crash as he struggled to save the lives of his crew mates while engaging in an overnight exercise.
While being deployed in Poland as part of a NATO operation in 2018 Maes was taking part in a training exercise when he and his two crew mates fell asleep in their tank and awoke to find it speeding down a hill.
Maes recollects calling out to the driver to ‘step on the brakes’; however, the driver had shouted back that it ‘wasn’t him’, clamoring that the parking break had failed and the emergency brakes weren’t working either.
It would later be discovered that the tan ,a 65-ton M1A1 Abrams, had suffered a hydraulic leak. With all operational systems not functioning, and with the tank hurtling down the hill at 90 MPH, the crew had no choice but to prepare for impact.
Maes stated in a press release:
“We realized there was nothing else we could do and just held on.”
The tank ultimately crashed into an embankment, hurling Maes across the machinery and leading his leg to get caught in a gear. It was then that Maes felt the full force of the tank turret sliding onto his leg. He thought his leg was broken, and remained more concerned about the injuries sustained by his crew mates.
The driver of the tank, Victor Alamo, was pinned down after smashing his head through the driver’s hatch and breaking his back. Sergeant Aechere Crump, the gunner on board, had dislocated her leg and was bleeding heavily from a laceration on her thigh.
At that moment, Maes realized she had ruptured her femoral artery. In an effort to assist his fellow soldiers, Maes began putting forth his best effort to dislodge his leg. When looking back on the endeavor, Maes stated:
“I pushed and pulled at my leg as hard as I could to get loose and felt a sharp tear. I thought I had dislodged my leg, but when I moved away, my leg was completely gone.”
What would cause most people to faint from shock instead fostered a level of adrenaline and heroism in this soldier. Maes had persevered through the panic and pain and pulled himself into the back of the tank to locate the medical kit onboard. While in transit, Maes was beginning to feel the gravity of the dismemberment.
Maes looking back stated:
“I knew I was going into shock. All I could think about was no one knows we’re down here.”
Maes added that he knew any hopes of making it through were incumbent upon him. He added:
“Either I step up or we all die.”
Maes training kicked into high gear, ordering the crew to engage in shock procedures by having them focus on their breathing and telling them to clinch their belts into makeshift tourniquets to alleviate any more blood loss.
As a result of the ferocious collision, the tank’s radio systems had been destroyed. Yet, a single cell phone remained functional after the crash
Call it a miracle or an act of God, but Maes’ phone started ringing. Sergeant Cramp managed to crawl towards the phone, both legs severely injured, and threw the phone toward Maes who was able to text for assistance.
It was one of the last memories that Maes could recall from that incident, with the exception of him vaguely remembering the image of his Sergeant Major running with his amputated leg in the distance.
While looking back, Maes stated:
“I wanted to keep it, see if it could be reattached, but it was pulverized.”
Maes was rushed to a local hospital before he was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where it was discovered he’d broken his ankle, pelvis in three places and his shoulder. Maes had spent nearly four months between recovery and also dealing with a subsequent infection from the ordeal.
“I feel super lucky. My crew all does. So many things could have gone wrong. Besides my leg, we all walked away pretty much unscathed.”
A year after the ordeal, the 21-year-old is still undergoing physical and occupational therapy at the Center for the Intrepid, located at the Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion in Houston, Texas.
Maes is currently in the process of being fitted for a long-term prosthetic leg, a permanent implant that will allow him to ‘clip in and go’ so to speak. Maes is the epitome of optimism, insisting he’s been given a second chance at life and believes it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
When speaking with Fox News about the experience and his optimistic outlook, Maes stated:
“I’ll probably say that for the rest of my life. Every day I wake up and look at it, and I remember how close I was to losing it all. And I’m still here. I managed to survive, and this is just the scar I walked away with.”
It’s the men and women like Ezra Maes, who are defending our country, that give us all hope, inspiration, and comfort when we sleep at night. Knowing that these caliber of men and women are protecting our front lines are the reason we all can sleep peacefully.
Did you know that Law Enforcement Today has a private new home for those who support emergency responders and veterans? It’s called LET Unity, and it’s where we share the untold stories of those patriotic Americans. Every penny gets reinvested into giving these heroes a voice. Check it out today.
It seems that every day, there’s another attack on police officers across our country… or those who serve and protect our communities and our country are being wounded or killed oversees.
That’s why Law Enforcement Today launched LET Unity. We wanted to give a voice to officers who have never been able to tell their stories.
Today, we want to leave you with the story of Texas State Trooper Dub Gillum, who was shot in the line of duty. He survived and joined us to tell his story, which can be seen here.
Dub’s is a tragic story – but also one filled with hope. With lessons. And with a dose of reality that America needs. Proceeds from LET Unity memberships go directly back into telling the stories of warriors like Dub. We hope you’ll consider signing up. The mainstream media isn’t giving them a platform. Social media is censoring them. Help us to help them.
October 1, 1998 I was on routine patrol in Hood County, Texas. And we know it’s never routine.
I stopped a wanted felon that night. I had been on patrol eight years, field training officer, martial artist, soon to become a firearms instructor, on a waiting list for the governor’s protective detail.
I was gonna move upward and onward. Trained every day… ran every day. I had just broke loose my rookie of six months and I handled nights by myself.
I stopped a reckless vehicle driving 85 in a 55. He stopped in the middle of the road. It was about 8:15 p.m.
Like I said, I had just broke a rookie loose – I told him how to do it, how to approach on the driver side or the passenger side, different tactical ways to do it. I go walking up to the vehicle and he rolls down his window, leans out the window, says:
“What’s the problem, officer?”
Then he shot me 10 times.
10 times in 2.8 seconds.
How’d I get shot? I’m an eight-year veteran – that’s a long time in law enforcement.
First shot caught me in the forehead, parted my hair, went through my hat. You know us troopers and our hats – I got a brand new one right there. Took me a couple of months to get that hat – but the first shot ruined that hat and it’s hard for me to talk about.
Second round caught me in the left temple. Bullet went through the left eye, exploded, blew out my right eye. That’s two.
Three, four, five, in the forearm.
Six, seven in the hip.
Eight, nine, ten in the back.
I was wearing my vest. It happened in 2.8 seconds.
The man who shot me was a wanted felon. Should been in prison three times over. Had a sorry judge who kept letting him out. He had assaulted other police officers – I wasn’t the first. He was one of those what we know as the one-percenters. He drives off. I laid in the roadway. They got me to the hospital.
I stayed in the hospital for a couple of weeks, was off work for 14 months.
Besides getting shot, one of the worst days was when the doctor – head of a medical facility, he was the head of ophthalmology, he said, “Well, you’ll be blind the rest your life – you can sell pencils for a living,” which is what the School for the Blind in Texas does.
So I fired him. Got another doctor. What the hell do doctors know, right?
I had another rookie trooper coming in December. I had to be back to work. So I was off work a little longer and I went through ten surgeries.
I’m blind in the right eye, I can’t see crap out of the left – scares a lot of people that I still carry a gun and drive black and white. But after 10 eye surgeries, I see on a good day 20-30 in the left eye… I can see pretty good out of the right eye too. One day I may see fully out of them.
If you notice my eyes – one eye is a little different than the other, because I lost my iris and it’s all pupil. When I go to the schools I love it when kids say:
“Hey, you got two different colored eyes?”
I say “yeah”.
And they always follow up with:
“I got a dog with two colored eyes.”
“I am just a different breed of dog.”
But off work for 14 months, I did a lot of soul searching and a lot eye surgeries to get me back to doing this job. And I always told my wife that if I ever got my eyesight well enough, I’d go back to patrol. Then I wake up a day later, a knot on the back of my head.
But being off duty that time and not sure I was gonna recover my vision .. and when I did, DPS created a position for me in Granbury being the safety officer, training officer and public information officer.
And so I’ve continued to do that for the past 20 years, and so I teach officer safety.
I’m not alone. My story is not unique.
It is, but it isn’t.
And yes it’s unique, but no it’s not because these are the men and women in our law enforcement and our firefighters and our military that serve this country and walk the blue line that we’ve talked about.
One of the classes I teach is “Below 100”. The concept behind one Below 100 is we haven’t had a year where we’ve lost less than 100 police officers in the line of duty since 1943.
If you go back over the last five years alone we lose one hundred and fifty, hundred and sixty, hundred seventy officers a year. Many of those are the gunfire, aggravated assault, attempted murder…
Many of those tenants in Below 100 :
- Wear your vest.
- Wear your seat belt.
- Slow your speed down.
- What’s important now?
- Complacency kills.
These are five tenants of the Below 100. And I teach course on mindset where we talk about presumed compliance and complacency because I can tell you I was complacent that night.
We all get complacent. I was an eight year veteran. Whether you’re a rookie at the academy or a seasoned 28-year troop, complacency affects every one of us. It may affect us whether we know it or not.
I want to share a little analogy with you. We refer to ourselves as the sheep dog – we all know that analogy.
We stand guard over the sheep. We protect them from the wolf.
But you know the sheep are just as afraid of the sheep dog as they are the wolf, because when you think about the sheep dog – they keep the sheep in line. They nip at their heels and the sheep are nervous around them.
Why don’t we further ourselves now to a different comparison? How about the shepherds? Because the shepherd cares for his flock… not only from the wolf, but he meets their needs. It’s what we do.
We’re not just a protector from the wolf, the predator, to protect the prey. Because in America, Americans and police officers and our military… sometimes we have to put down the predator.
But then we also turn around and render first aid when the need arises. When our predators are out there in need, law enforcement steps up at times to help them out because we wear many hats.
Whether it’s a psychologist, a mother or a father. Words of wisdom… a mentor. We’re doing the shepherd’s work. So I encourage us to now refer to us as “shepherd”.
It’s going to be tough. Teach old dog new tricks … old sheep dog new tricks… because that’s what we do.
But we’re also shepherds, and I think that will build and elevate us within the community as the sheep look to the shepherd and not just to the sheep dog.
You know when we lose a police officer, it’s not just an agency – it’s the entire United States.
It hurts all of us.
And so we have to train better and be ready.
God bless America.