EOD Warrior overcomes, regains military might

  • Published
  • By Ilka Cole
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
Rapper Lil Wayne’s rhyme helps keep one explosive ordnance disposal technician on track after several harrowing deployments.

“Those words remind me I have the strength it takes to make it through what life brings. That keeps me going,” said Master Sgt. Kenneth Guinn, a 325th Civil Engineer Squadron Airman from Tyndall Air Force Base.

Guinn attended the AF Warrior Games training camp here April 24 - 28. He is set to compete in shooting, archery, sitting volleyball, and track at this year’s Department of Defense Warrior Games in June.

“It’s great to do something my son will actually get to see,” said the 14-year veteran. “He was in awe of the medals I won at the Nellis AFB trials. He wants me to win.”

In 2010, life changed for the Sunray, Texas native. On a mission in Afghanistan, the vehicle he was in took a direct strike from an improvised explosive device. 

“As an EOD tech, I’ve experienced some pretty good blasts. I’m lucky. I can remember my name and still tie my own shoes.” said the 30-year-old who suffered from chronic fatigue and memory loss. “At the time, traumatic brain injury was kind of foreign to everybody, especially in the Air Force, so I didn’t really get treatment or help.”

Two years later, he returned to Afghanistan. While on that deployment, tragedy struck when his friend stepped on an IED. The powerful blast severed both of his friend’s legs, injured his arm and threw him into a more than 12-foot deep hole.

“I saw him lying there without his legs. I knew if we didn’t get to him quickly and apply tourniquets he wouldn’t make it, so I jumped in,” he said about his efforts to save his friend. “On the battlefield, we (military members) will do almost anything for anybody out there. I didn’t think about myself. I just knew he needed help.”

His sense of duty and selfless actions came with a cost.

The weight of Guinn’s gear and the impact of his jump into the hole shattered his knees, according to the 14-year veteran. Guinn helped save his friend, but in the aftermath he would require re-constructive surgery on both knees.

“I thought, ‘I’m barely halfway through my career. I have so much to do. I’m going to be fine. I’m going to recover from these surgeries,’” said the high school athlete.  

During this rehabilitation time, he rediscovered the wounded warrior program. He’d been enrolled in the program after his 2010 deployment. After seeing the warrior games in 2013, his commitment to physical and mental rehabilitation grew stronger. 

Although Guinn wanted to take part in the CARE adaptive and rehabilitation sports, he always seemed too busy to make plans to participate. It took some EOD peer pressure to convince him.

“I dragged him to the trials. That’s what happened,” said Master Sgt. Linn Knight, 325th CES EOD technician and warrior games competitor. “In the EOD community, it’s a given you’ll get blown up. There are people who are far worse off, missing three or four limbs. Guinn was humble about his injuries and thought others needed it more.”  

Once there, it was also an eye-opening experience for the quiet, married father of one. He was amazed by the genuine feeling of care among the athletes.

“I decided to go meet other athletes and see what I could offer the team,” said Guinn. “When I was there, I learned how much I could gain from everyone else around me. Seeing what they overcame showed me I could do it too.”

After extensive medical procedures, rehabilitation and physical therapy, Guinn returned to full duty status with his EOD unit the summer of 2015.

“Even though I learned I’m not invincible, I welcome the chance to get back at it. I would be more than excited to deploy with a team again.” he said.