WEYMOUTH, Mass. - He almost gave his life fighting for our country and now he’s giving back by speaking to veterans having trouble adjusting to civilian life.
Every few months, retired Staff Sgt. Kevin Flike makes his way to the Housing Unit for Military Veterans (HUMV) at the Middlesex Jail to share his journey. The room is full of members of every branch of the military, some from recent wars and some that date back to the conflict in Vietnam.
"I could never fully appreciate how much I needed the support of other and how to ask for help until I was 27 years old and bullet taught me that lesson," said Flike.
He’s a Green Beret who nearly lost his life in Afghanistan, now his remarkable recovery story is empowering other Veterans. The inspiring story of @woundedbywar, tonight on @boston25 News at 10! pic.twitter.com/A39bsI8A50— Mark Ockerbloom (@ocktalks) May 18, 2018
He now has everyone’s attention.
A member of the Army’s Special Forces, the Green Berets, Flike was critically wounded in Afghanistan back in 2011 when his unit was ambushed by the Taliban.
A video from another soldier’s helmet camera shows his teammates frantically try to stop the bleeding as the Taliban gunfire is heard in the distance.
"It felt like I got hit in the stomach with a sledge hammer," said Flike.
The video then shows FLIKE rushed to a landing helicopter as Taliban fire intensifies. He’s loaded onto a helicopter as he's rushed to a field hospital nearby.
Floating in and out of consciousness, he remembers speaking to the surgeon.
"My first question was 'am I going to live or not?' and he says, 'I'm not sure it looks pretty bad, hang in there, do you have any last requests?'" said Flike.
The next thing Flike remembers is waking up in a German hospital.
They had to remove 20 percent of his colon and the bullet shattered his hip damaging his femoral nerve, leaving his left leg paralyzed.
An experimental surgery at the Mayo Clinic helped him walk again, but during his recovery Flike became addicted to painkillers.
Fighting through a long recovery and battling addiction, his wife convinced this father of two young girls to medically retire and take care of himself.
"I had to come to grips especially with my injuries that I was never going back to that lifestyle. I had to make this decision are you going to think about the past, or are you going to move forward toward the future,” Flike said.
Flike decided to pursue two concurrent master’s degrees from MIT and Harvard, graduating in the spring of 2016. He’s now the director for strategic projects at a cyber security firm in Boston.
Flike, a devout Catholic from upstate New York, now shares his journey with other veterans that are in need of help.
"I try to give back to the community as much as I can, because I wouldn't be where I am right now if it wasn't for the support and help of so many people out there," said Flike. "Coming home, getting out of the military, separating from that brotherhood and sisterhood that you have there, is very difficult for a lot of people."
LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW
Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian created the HUMV program to help incarcerated veterans find a path to success. He regularly invites speakers like Flike to come in and talk to the inmates.
"For these men to see someone that was in very much the same place as them, to be successful and overcoming those odds in a way so they can see themselves overcoming some of the obstacles their facing today," said Koutoujian.
It's that giving back that Flike thinks more people can do.
“To show that they care for those individuals that took so much time to sacrifice in the military, I think that would do a number to help them," said Flike.
You can read more about Flike's work here.
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