August 20, 2014

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Former Marine plans to honor the fallen by biking from NYC to Pa., then to D.C.

CAMDEN TWP. — Former Marine Adam McCann plans to attend the ground zero ceremony in New York City today along with other men and women who were wounded in the war on terror.

Adam McCann shows one of the lower-leg injuries he received from an enemy mortar that severed his Achilles tendon on his left leg and the anterior tibialis (shown), which doctors sewed together. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

Adam McCann shows one of the lower-leg injuries he received from an enemy mortar that severed his Achilles tendon on his left leg and the anterior tibialis (shown), which doctors sewed together. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

Then he plans to hop onto his bike with and ride 530 miles from New York City to Shanksville, Pa., and to Washington, D.C., to remember those who died.

After surviving a mortar blast in Iraq that could have killed him, McCann, 26, pledged to be a voice for wounded veterans as long as he is able.

“I’m a firm believer in paying it forward and never leaving a fellow service member behind,” he said. “I feel blessed because there are guys with a lot more serious injuries than I.”

Click here to view more photos.

McCann said he’s met many brave men and women, some without limbs or much mobility, who are forging forward with their lives.

He proudly wears a T-shirt celebrating the recovery of another soldier who was initially given just a 3 percent chance of living.

When he was injured in 2005, McCann said doctors told him he would never be able to walk again. After numerous surgeries, he walks with a limp and has some range of motion difficulties.

During rehabilitation, he was warned he could be in a wheelchair by age 35.

Initially his legs felt good and he took a job as a mail carrier after he was discharged from the Marines in 2006.

Within a few years he started having more serious physical difficulties at the job and he is now receiving Social Security disability payments.

Several times a year, he participates in sports events for disabled veterans which are funded by various charities.

He enjoys the camaraderie so much that he is pursuing a degree at Lorain County Community College in hopes of getting a job with a pro sports team.

Several months ago, McCann said he met his girlfriend who was a friend of a friend of another disabled veteran at one of the sports challenges.

Like many combat veterans, McCann said he struggles with post traumatic stress disorder and is easily startled by sounds that remind him of battle noise.

He owns his own home and makes ends meet by having several roommates.

If he has any criticism of the Veterans Administration care, he said it is the approach to addressing mental problems, which he said seems to largely involve prescription of antidepressants.

McCann said he feels blessed because so many Vietnam veterans support sports challenges and other rehabilitative efforts for the newest crops of injured soldiers.

“They don’t want to see us treated like they were treated,” McCann said.

McCann said he thinks America achieved a laudable result in Iraq, and he is proud of the stability that has returned to the country after Saddam Hussein was removed from power.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, McCann said he joined the Marine Corps in hopes of contributing to America’s best fighting force.

McCann got a chance to show his mettle when he was deployed to the Al Anbar region in Iraq in early 2005.

Nearly every day for two months, he said he and fellow Marines came under fire while performing missions to clear the Al Anbar region of insurgents.

On April 24, 2005, McCann and three other Marines were injured in a mortar blast after finding a weapons cache of several artillery shells in a home in Hit.

“We were carrying the shells back to our vehicles and we didn’t know if it was a set up or if we took too long, but we got ambushed,” McCann said.

“The insurgents shot the mortars from the other side of the street,” he said.

“The explosives we were carrying did not explode or we’d be pink mist,” McCann said.

McCann was the most seriously injured of the four.

Shrapnel tore through his neck and legs, tearing his left Achilles tendon and severing his right tibialis anterior muscle and tendon, which gives the foot the ability to flex.

McCann, who was knocked to the ground, tried to get up, only to have his legs crumple under him.

“Honestly I didn’t feel it,” McCann said. “When you’re doing these missions you’re so jacked up on adrenaline you don’t feel it. I woke up in a tent hospital.

“They told me I would never walk again, but my mindset was to prove them wrong.”

McCann, then 19, underwent surgery to remove shrapnel from his neck. He said fate dealt him the right cards because he put on his neck guard that day — the first time he recalled ever wearing the device.

Doctors also operated on his left leg to repair two big tears in his Achilles tendon.

An additional six surgeries repaired the tibialis anterior muscle and tendon on his right leg. There was a lot to repair because it had been sheared.

Now that area of his leg has so much scar tissue that his skin is tugged along with the muscle when he flexes his leg.
He said many small chores became easier with the arrival in May of his service dog Holt III, who was provided by Canine Companions and understands 40 commands.

McCann said Holt is a big hit at sporting events and will ride in a van while accompanying him on the 911 bike trip.
McCann said he was a junior at Firelands High School when this country was attacked 10 years ago and he recalls watching television coverage in his computer class that day.

Enlisting in the Marines after graduation gave him a new perspective on service to country, although he said it put him in conflict with his father who has different political views, he said.

“I actually believe war is necessary, as crazy as it sounds,” McCann said. “Everyone who was over there volunteered; they weren’t forced to join.”

Ride 2 Recovery

  • When: Today to Sept. 18
  • Who: 350 riders, including Adam McCann of Camden Township
  • Why: to raise money for fitness programs for wounded vets
  • Sponsored by: Fitness Challenge Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes cycling as a rehabilitative exercise
  • Website: Ride2recovery.com

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.