A uniform belt, smartphone, and “shockingly good” cellphone service is what Spc. Ezra Maes says saved his life.
But if you ask anyone else, they’ll tell it was his sheer force of will.
While trying to aid his fellow soldiers in a tank wreck, he ended up self-amputating his leg so that he wouldn’t be the only one walking out of that tank alive.
But Maes isn’t bitter over losing his leg.
In fact, he says: “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“I’ll probably say that for the rest of my life,” he told Fox News.
“Every day I wake up and look at it, and I remember how close I was to losing it all. And I’m still here. I managed to survive, and this is just the scar I walked away with.”
Maes was serving as a loader for the main cannon of a 65-ton tank when he was stationed in Poland.
It was his second day of a weeklong rotation in Slovakia when he and his two crew members fell asleep in their tank.
A few hours later they were violently awakened when the tank started lurching down the hill at 5 mph.
The parking brake on the tank failed as did emergency braking procedures due to a hydraulic leak.
The tank had picked up to 90 mph before it crashed into an embankment.
Maes was sent flying across the tank and had the tank’s turret slid onto his leg.
Maes assumed his leg was broken but his thoughts quickly moved on to how he could help his fellow soliders, one who suffered a broken back and the other who was bleeding from a cut on her thigh.
“I pushed and pulled at my leg as hard as I could to get loose and felt a sharp tear,” Maes told the U.S. Department of Defense. “I thought I had dislodged my leg, but when I moved away, my leg was completely gone.”
Even though Maes was gushing blood from his wound he still pushed forward to save his colleagues.
He pulled himself up onto the back of the tank to grab a tourniquet to try and stop his bleeding.
When he called over to his colleague to tell her to radio for help, they learned the radio wasn’t working.
Suddenly his cell phone started ringing.
Though everyone else’s phone was either broken or out of service, his phone for some reason was working.
His collegue was able to text a friend to send help.
“Once they found us, it turned into a bunch of big jokes and laughs,” he said. “We were so happy to be getting care, and that we weren’t dead.”
Since then Maes has undergone extensive medical treatment.
“When something like this happens, it’s easy to give up because your life won’t be the same, and you’re not wrong,” he said. “Life will take a 180, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Don’t let it hinder you from moving forward.”
Though he was having a tough time emotionally in the beginning, he says his outlooks has changed.
Maes says he looks forward to spending his future helping and motivating people who are in similar situations to himself.
“Your outlook can change everything. It’s 100 percent perspective,” he said. “I try and help as many people as possible who are in worse situations.”
Hear Maes tell his story in the video below.
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