Adams is an American Hero for his Service to Others

Thursday, November 9, 2017
Sean Adams and his dog Kevin during Saturday's hunt.
TD photo/Tim Blair

Sean Adams is an American Hero. Adams, a native of Gainesville, Ga., traveled to Clay County for the second time this past weekend, taking part in the Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (L.E.A.D.) pheasant hunt at Liberty Hill Outfitters north of Rector.(see story this edition)

Back in March of 2015, Adams attended his first hunt at Liberty Hill. At that time he was beginning to become acquainted with his service dog, Kevin, who was also being trained as a hunting dog by the organization Retrieving Freedom.

During the hunt he shared his story, of a young man growing up on the family farm and watching his dad work three jobs to support his three sons.

Like any other teenager Adams grew up playing sports such as football and baseball, but when he graduated from high school he knew he had three choices. He could go to college, into the workforce in a struggling economy or he could join the military.

"I joined the Marine Corp when I turned 18, and I planned to make a 20-year career out of it," Adams said at the time, but he would never get that chance. At the age of 19, Adams was a Corporal E4 chosen for a Marine Special Operations command at the Kajaki River in Afghanistan. The area was being used to transport weapons of mass destruction to Pakistan, and orders were to push the Taliban as far north as possible and take control of the river. "Whoever controlled the river controlled the area," Adams said.

Working alongside Navy Seals and Green Berets, Adams said the unit had pushed the Taliban about 60 miles when they came upon rocky terrain where there was a cluster of large rocks forming a small mountain. Knowing this was the perfect vantage point for an attack, Adams and his men pushed up the mountain. Once on top they found two young teenage boys. "Fifteen or sixteen-year-olds were the average age of Taliban soldiers," Adams said.

He said there were obvious signs of improvised explosive devices, so the team swept the area and continued down a trail on the mountain. Adams said as he moved further down the trail he began to realize more and more locals were watching him. "They knew the guy with the walkie was in charge," he said. He realized two men in particular were following them, and it became evident to him they were about to be attacked.

Another unit had taken another trail on the mountain and realized there was a large enemy encampment just on the other side. He said this is when it all began. He remembers being told "we have to go" and hurriedly moving down the trail. He then recalls stepping on what appeared to be a five quart jug, such as oil is packaged, and it exploded.

When he regained consciousness he was lying in the hole made by the fertilizer-based explosive. His right leg was demolished from the knee down and the rest shattered. The IED also snapped the tibia of his left leg. While lying in the hole his team was under fire and Adams took a gunshot to the top of his broken left leg, and a small pebble thrown by the IED went through the left side of his head directly behind his eye, causing him some blindness in that eye. "A millimeter further back and I wouldn't be here," Adams said.

After lying in the hole, under enemy fire for an hour, a chopper finally arrived, hooked onto him and pulled him out of the hole, then rushed him to Germany where he was stabilized. He doesn't remember much between the IED exploding and waking up in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethseda, Md., discovering both legs had been amputated.

Adams said at first "I felt cheated. As a marine there's no greater honor than to die in combat, and I had been ready for that, but God obviously had another plan for me." After awhile he began seeing friends from his unit in the hospital, which helped him begin to accept what had happened to him.

"The biggest obstacle was forgiving the people who had done this to me, but until I could forgive them, I couldn't begin to forgive myself for the things I had done in combat," Adams said. He also refuses to be called a hero. "The real heroes are the unrecognized heroes, the medics who kept me alive until they could reach an adequate facility -- those are the heroes," he said, "War is not about medals or heroics."

After spending 20 months in the Walter Reed rehab center, Adams began to rebuild his life in Gainesville, where he struggled daily with the new difficulty of day-to-day life. "I thought this was it for me. I didn't realize I could still live a full life until I started seeing how other disabled vets were still carrying on," Adams said.

Just 22-years-old at the time, Adams has returned to his original passions, hunting and cars. Despite all the challenges of returning to civilian life, Adams has found another calling in helping other vets like him. He started working with the Wounded Warriors Garage in Gainesville, which is a fairly new non-profit organization that has the goal of reuniting veterans, mostly disabled, with the old muscle car of their dreams while making the vehicle accessible for the veteran's particular disabilities. The long term goal is to have a Wounded Warriors Garage at all four corners of the nation, "vets helping vets get back into muscle cars," Adams said.

Saturday, he was once again back at Liberty Hills with Kevin to take part in the L.E.A.D. hunt to show support for members of law enforcement and help promote the work of Retrieving Freedom.

“Events like this are very important, because our law enforcement officers have taken a lot of flak lately, especially over the course of the last 24 months or so,” he offered. “I fought on a battle front on foreign soil, and they're working here to keep sanity on the streets of the United States and I just don't think they get enough credit.”

He noted as a veteran he feels law enforcement is often taken for granted.

“It's an honor to be here among the guys, and pay tribute to them,” he added. “I don't think they get the tribute like we do, and I think they deserve it just as much.”

Adams observed that the hunt offers a lot to those taking part.

“It's great to be with the guys, shoot some birds and enjoy the companionship with the other hunters and the dogs,” he added with a smile. “And, this great weather as opposed to the overcast and windy conditions which seem to keep blowing the birds away from me. But, it's a honor to be able to come back here for the second time.”

In the two and a half years since his first visit, Adams has remained busy with a number of efforts.

“I'm involved in the Garrison East Foundation, they built me a house back in May and I've been traveling around helping raise money so other veterans can get homes. Also, Retrieving Freedom-they trained my service dog, Kevin, they're out of Senatobia, Miss., and they're a good outfit. I'm also involved in Simper Fi Fund/America's Fund. They help with critically wounded by providing caregivers and support for them and their familes. There is also First Relief/ USA Cares, and they help veterans with a number of things, such as getting behind on house payments or having other problems with finances, they kind of step in and help put there.”

Adams also works to educate the public about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is passionate about reaching young people and helping influence their attitudes toward their country.

“There are a lot of ideas blowing in the wind today, But I feel the only way we're going to succeed as a country, and financially, is to influence our young people and encourage them to take pride in their country,” he surmised.

He also updated some of his earlier efforts, noting the Wounded Warriors Garage has been renamed as American Warrior Garage.

“The idea is to get the veterans in and mentor them, get them involved in something hands-on and get their minds off just their lives,” he explained. “It's just another effort to get them into a trade, and back into the workforce and back to being productive. Most of the foundations are working toward the same goal, we just attack the problem in different ways.”

Adams noted each situation is unique, adding “we just have to see which path works best, each veteran is different and has different wants and needs and interests. And, that's been the situation with the garage. We've had our ups and downs but now they're starting to get things straight.”

Visiting with Adams, his love of country is evident.

“If we lose pride in ourselves as a country we lose the vision of our forefathers. If you look at George Washington, the father of this nation, I really think he envisioned a country that was filled with pride for itself, and everything it stands for,” he adds. “And, I believe there have been too many misguided views which have moved this nation. We're the checks and balances country, and I don't think there have been enough checks or balances lately in government or politics. We've wavered too much the past few years.”

As a young man in his early 20's faced with a life filled with challenges, Adams could have given up. But, his response to the obstacles life has offered has only made him stronger and with more resolve. It's not the life-changing injuries he sustained which makes Sean Adams an American Hero, it's how he has responded in the years since and the good works he has accomplished.

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