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First sergeant overcomes severe wound with resilience

  • Published
  • By Amy Rollins
  • Skywrighter Staff

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — In December 2004, Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Seekell joined the Air Force in Security Forces as a military working dog handler.

In 2011, during his deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Seekell was conducting a routine foot patrol mission outside Bagram Airfield when he and his German shepherd patrol dog, Charlie, stepped on a landmine, blowing them both in the air.

His first reaction was to attend to his team, including Charlie. Charlie had multiple shrapnel wounds to his hind quarters, and his eardrums had burst during the explosion, but the MWD made a full recovery.

Seekell recovered, too, developing a new set of goals and striving for excellence.

After recovering from multiple surgeries to remove his left leg below the knee, the Charlestown, Rhode Island, native dedicated four to five hours every day to physical therapy and getting fit for a prosthesis. He returned to active duty and concentrated on cycling, shooting, track and field, and basketball to maintain fitness.

His prowess brought about qualification for the Warriors Games 2015, where he earned two bronze medals, and Invictus Games 2016, earning one gold and two silver medals.

Seekell was then selected to be Air Force team co-captain at Warrior Games 2017, where he won gold medals in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter runs. Later that year, he won gold for the U.S. in the 400-meter run and as a member of the wheelchair basketball team in Toronto’s Invictus Games.

“My injury and the experiences I’ve had on my road to recovery have given me invaluable perspective and also a platform to share those lessons learned with those around me,” Seekell said via email from his deployed location in Iraq. “I’ve tried my best to be a good steward of that platform.

“I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to fulfill many roles during my time in service. Ten years ago, I would have never guessed that my journey would take me to where I am now. But when opportunity knocks, you have two choices – stand at the door or throw it wide open and jump through. I haven’t always known how it was going to work out, but I did know that I wanted to be able to make a difference in people’s lives.

His Air Force awards include a Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Achievement Medal.

 “When you let people in, some amazing things can happen,” he added. “So, I went from working the streets as a dog handler to having the privilege to lead and inspire from a higher level. And for that I am forever thankful for that fateful day that allowed me to go down that path and be placed in a position to impact so many. My life is richer for it.”