It wasn’t until after the accident that Greg Reynolds realized he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The cloud of invincibility that first came over him in Iraq lingered long after he returned to Massachusetts. He even worked as a guard for cash-handling company Loomis Armored – and didn’t wear a bullet-proof vest.
And he just couldn’t relax. He drove friends crazy with his strict daily schedule.
“The way I dealt with that before, was working out all the time. I never [realized it at the time],” says Reynolds, who used to do pull-ups with 25-pound chains strapped to his chest. “But that’s how I got [big]. And that’s how I took care of all that built-up aggression.
“I don’t have the outlet to the extent that I did before. Now everything’s collapsing around me. I have to find other ways to cope, whereas weight-lifting’s kind of not really there.”
So soon after the accident, he began to tackle his PTSD.
In January, he attended a Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic at New Hampshire’s Mt. Sunapee. Reynolds’ initial skepticism faded quickly. The weekend, he says, was a success.
“I saw some guys who were wheelchair-bound,” Reynolds says. “Their stories were pretty miraculous too, compared to mine. It showed me, ‘OK, look here I am [after] not being able to walk before.’ I had to learn to walk all over again. … Being able to get on skis and ski down the mountain gave me some motivation, some drive.”
Reynolds applied that attitude to his physical therapy. For months, he practiced moving the muscles needed to power his prosthetic. In March, he received Otto Bock’s Dynamic Arm. By that time he’d already learned to co-contract his ab and back muscles, which shift the arm’s main functions (hand, elbow and wrist). In addition to the myoelectric arm, Reynolds was fitted for a shoulder joint made by Liberating Technologies of Holliston, Mass.
Iraq, perhaps, unknowingly prepared him for his recovery.
“A day really seemed like a week,” Reynolds recalls. “I was forced to grow up at a very young age. I turned 19, then 20 on the tour. Here I am, assigned a weapon, assigned a mission.”
In June 2002, 10 days after he graduated from Dighton-Rehoboth High, he left for basic training in Fort Benning, Ga. Beginning in February 2003, he served 15 months in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Here I am, in friggin’ Iraq, in the middle of war, seeing all kinds of stuff normal people shouldn’t see,” Reynolds says. “That was a big eye-opener.”