By Col. Glenn Robert (Rob) Bollinger III
I was injured while deployed several years ago as part of Enduring Freedom. Had it not been for the benevolence of members of the Auburn family such as the team doctors, Dr. Jim Andrews, Dr. John & Sonja Richardson, former Auburn linebacker Alex Lincoln and his wife, LeAnn, I would not have received the care necessary to return to the fight. Their work with the Eagle Fund raised the funding for my rehabilitation, and Dr. Andrews volunteered his office's services at a greatly discounted rate.
I was so impressed with the quality of people who are part of the Auburn family that I wanted to be part of it. The patriotism & sheer tenacity of these Auburn community leaders is inspiring.
My injury occurred during a rock slide while on a patrol. We were very heavily kitted up. The rocks gave way and kind of pinched me, and I got spun around, and blew apart my knee. It wasn't due to direct enemy contact.
I met Alex and LeAnn in Pensacola, when I was in their human performance program. When I had a lot of movement issues, they said, "We need to get you over to get X-Rays and get you looked at." Dr. Andrews and his team pulled me aside. They said, "There's a lot more wrong with you than you think. We'd like to do some work."
I had to go back to my unit to try to work out the details. I told Alex, 'I don't think this is going to work,' because they have orthopedic surgeons in the Army. But Alex said, "We can get you sponsored through the Eagle Fund. Dr. Andrews and his team are already agreeing that they'll just take care of it all."
The Eagle Fund, a partnership between the Andrews Research & Education Foundation and EXOS, supports active duty wounded or injured members of the Special Operations community.
I then went back down and had the surgery done with Dr. Andrews' lead knee replacement surgeon, Dr. Brett Smith. Did all of my rehab with EXOS, shepherded by Alex & LeAnn Lincoln. They asked me to attend a couple events for them. That's where I met John, who raises a ton of support for the Eagle Fund. It's my recollection that 33 people got helped, like I did, through the work that John does in helping raise money for the Eagle Fund.
Within two years, I was back in the fight in Afghanistan leading soldiers through multiple combat engagements, all stuff that would have never happened if I hadn't met the Auburn family.
It was amazing going back and assuming command of my unit. Leading the guys. It was an amazing gift that you can't replace. Really kind of hard to describe. I guess it would be like a guy being able to get back on the football field after a severe injury.
So, I started spending more time with John and Sonja, coming down to the games, hanging out with Dr. Andrews and everybody. This community is hard to describe as an outsider. You guys probably all take it as normal, but the generosity and the kindness that people have. The no-quit attitude.
When people thought that things couldn't be done, Auburn people don't give up. I have another dear friend of mine, Ray Kuderka, who received help from Andrews & EXOS. At first, Ray was told he was never going to move his arm again. Dr. Andrews said, "Nothing is too difficult. We will fix this." Ray commanded a Company within my Battalion in Afghanistan with me, my last rotation as well as in the Ranger community.
What you guys are doing for us. We can't thank you enough. It's really amazing.
- G.R. Bollinger III COL, SF