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Trauma, Adaptive Sports Bond Warriors For Life

Tech. Sgts. Benjamin Seekell’s and Brian Williams’ life-changing experiences helped them forge an inseparable bond. The two met in 2009 when Williams was assigned to Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, and Seekell was there for dog handler training.

“We had a lot in common,” Seekell said. “While I was there, we went to Brian’s dog kennels, went out to eat, and played video games at his house.” The friends stayed in touch after the training.

Seekell deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, where an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded under him, and he lost his left leg below the knee.

“It was a horrible feeling to get the news about Ben,” Williams recalled.

Seekell’s determination to bounce back from the ordeal was confirmed by a nurse he only encountered casually. “While doing his rounds one night, he…looked at me, looked at my leg, shrugged, and said, ‘I’ve seen worse, you’ll be fine,’” said Seekell. “I decided right then and there I wasn’t going to make a big deal of my injury.”

From left: Seekell and Williams.
U.S. Air Force image by Kevin Gaddie.

He credited his family’s support as essential to his comeback.

While in the hospital, he was enrolled in the Wounded Warrior program.

After returning to full duty status five-and-a-half months later, he was sent to Lackland, Texas, to be a security forces instructor.

Almost a year later, Williams deployed to Afghanistan. While
he was helping clear out a four-level compound, an IED exploded and severed the lower part of his left leg.

Seekell was stunned at the news of Williams’ injuries. “I heard he lost a leg, but I didn’t know the extent,” he said.

Williams’ mind immediately turned to Seekell, who had stayed positive throughout his recovery.

“I thought about my family, but when I thought about how I was going to come back from this, I thought of Ben first,” said Williams.

He contacted his old friend and asked for all the advice he could give. Seekell joined Williams at his bedside, and the two stayed in touch throughout Williams’ year-and-a-half recovery period. Seekell became a mentor to him as he healed.

“I don’t know how I would have dealt with this if Ben hadn’t overcome his injuries as he did,” Williams said.

Like Seekell, he was enrolled in the Wounded Warrior program.

Williams returned to full duty status in February 2015 and also received orders to Lackland as a security forces instructor, where he reunited with Seekell.

They attended their first Warrior CARE event and team training that year, which helped strengthen their bond. “Some of these guys had been in the program long enough to establish friendships and relationships,” Williams said. “But I knew I had one friend, one wingman, and that was Ben. That was all I needed.”

Seekell and Williams supported each other through the adaptive sports events and were selected for the Warrior Games where they played on the wheelchair basketball team. They will also compete in the Invictus Games (www.invictusgamesfoundation.org) in September.

“Brian and I balance each other pretty well,” said Seekell. “We think alike in a lot of ways while being two different types of people. We can be more of ourselves with each other than we can with anyone else.”

Williams echoed the sentiment and said their life trials cemented their friendship.

“The Air Force Wounded Warrior program is just one more thing for us to bond over,” he said.

 

This article is based on an original story by Kevin Gaddie, Eglin Air Force Base.

 

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