By Christopher Frost
William Sturges served 14 years in the U.S. Army and National Guard before the havoc from a helicopter training crash resulted in three years on a medical hold and, ultimately, his retirement.
Fog contributed to the November 1999 wreck at Long Island MacArthur
Airport in Ronkonkoma, N. Y. Of the four onboard, all from Company A,
2nd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, two died instantly in what should
have been a routine standardization flight. Neither Sgt. Sturges, a standardization instructor, nor the other survivor, the pilot, was expected to live.
Sturges suffered traumatic brain injury, a dislocated shoulder, fractured
wrist and collapsed lung, broken ribs, fractured tibias, spine damage, and
third-degree burns. His left leg had to be amputated. He spent almost five
months recuperating at three hospitals; the extended convalescence entailed three weeks in intensive care.
“After five years, normalcy somewhat materialized,” he told me in February during our photo shoot.
Sturges continues to receive periodic medical treatment and recreation
He enrolled at Suffolk County Community College in fall 2007 through
the GI Bill’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. Sturges
transferred to the Long Island campus of St. Joseph’s College of New
York in fall 2011 as a part-time student majoring in therapeutic recreation.
His GPA is 3. 4.
Married since 1996, and hailing from Ronkonkoma, Sturges, 50, stays
active outside the classroom. He mono-skis, kayaks, and handcycles
through Veterans Affairs events. Sturges is commander of national amputee chapter 76 of the Disabled American Veterans and first vice president
of the National Amputation Foundation for stricken soldiers. He previously served on the board of directors of the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification.
Shannon O’Neill, assistant dean and military advisor for SJC Long Island, helped arrange this photo essay to honor him.
Christopher Frost (former Western Regional Representative and former
San Diego State University chapter president) has published photographs
in quarterly editions of Texas Books in Review, in his scholarly book Moral
Cruelty: Ameaning and the Justification of Harm (University Press of America,
2004), on various humanitarian websites, and for campus purposes. Frost
is Executive Dean of St. Joseph’s College of New York, Long Island campus.
He specializes in psychology and interdisciplinary studies; his many other
publications include Simone Weil: On Politics, Religion and Society (Sage Publications, 1998). Email
him at email@example.com.
Visible and Invisible Wounds and Recoveries
On a visit to the Ronkonkoma Armory, Sturges
recounts his ordeal while inspecting a helicopter
much like the one he went down in. Sturges counsels fellow SJC Long Island student Richard
Sturges makes a point in an informal class session at
SJC Long Island about how to support veterans and active
military. Everyone involved in the conversation is a veteran
or active soldier.
Left: Sturges somehow made it out alive from this catastrophe.
Suffolk County Police Department