FORT BRAGG, NC, UNITED STATES
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — After spending close to two years recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a proud paratrooper and combat engineer was given a heroes welcome by his former unit here last week.
It was the first time Army Cpl. Adam Keys had physically been able to visit Fort Bragg and his beloved 618th Engineer Company, also known as the Nasty, since being severely wounded by a roadside bomb July 2010 in Afghanistan. Keys is now a triple amputee. He was the only survivor of five Paratroopers in his vehicle.
“I have my injuries, but my incident involved other guys that didn’t make it back,” Keys said. “I owe it to them to live well. I am here for them.”
Keys arrived at Fort Bragg, March 20, with two goals: jump out of an airplane and lead Nasty on a run up Fort Bragg’s famed Ardennes Street.
“I met Corporal Keys right after I took over the Nasty,” 1st Sgt. Welty Lohr, the company’s top-enlisted soldier, said. “The first day I met him at Walter Reed he said, ‘I’ve got two goals -- I want to lead the Nasty on a run along Ardennes [Street] to Longstreet [Road], and I want to jump out of an airplane again.’”
Lohr made sure Keys’ wish come true. Exactly 618 days after the roadside bomb changed Keys’ life, he jumped out of an airplane. The day prior, Keys led Nasty on 3-mile run on Ardennes Street.
It was a meaningful week for all the Nasty Company Paratroopers who knew Keys.
“This last week with Keys has lifted company morale and righted the wrongs that we’ve had,” said Capt. Justin Roy, Nasty Company’s commander. “If this doesn’t motivate my Nasty soldiers, then I hope their next decision is to get out of the Army.”
The U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, and the Wounded Warrior Project helped coordinate Keys’ jump with the Nasty Company leadership. Keys was extremely grateful for the opportunity, he said.
“Working with the Golden Knights was inspirational,” Keys said. “I’ve never been that high up and the freefall was intense. This was a great way to get my tenth jump.”
“One of the best feelings in the world is whenever you help someone fulfill a goal, and the Golden Knights did that,” said Sgt. Cody Cruse, a Nasty paratrooper and close friend of Keys. “It was amazing!”
While Keys only visited the Nasty for a few days, his presence will remain with the company. To Keys, he’s a survivor staying motivated to recover, but to the Nasty Company paratroopers, he’s their hero, Lohr said.
“A hero is somebody you look up to, somebody that you want to be like,” Lohr said. “A hero has qualities that you covet. A hero is someone you want to emulate. Since I met this kid, he has shown qualities that I hope to someday have or that I already possess. Qualities that I hope to strengthen to be as high of a caliber of a human being as he is. I don’t know if you can really sum it all up, just being around him puts me in awe.”
||FORT BRAGG, NC, US
This work, A Nasty welcome for a company hero, by SFC Thaddius Dawkins, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.