- Ian Parkinson, 24, from Arizona, lost both legs when he stepped on an IED
- He was on patrol near Kandahar in June 2011 when the device exploded
- Ian, who calls himself Sergeant Stubbs, lost both legs at the knee
- He has had 24 major operations and spent two years in rehabilitation
- In March 2012 he stepped back on his skateboard for the first time
- Using his ‘stubbies’ – prosthetics – Ian is re-learning to skateboard again
- Ian said without his friends and family he couldn’t have made it through
- He credits his wife and high school sweetheart Ashley as being his ‘rock’
Lizzie Parry for MailOnline
His is a tale of triumph over adversity.
Growing up there were just two things that were certain in Ian Parkinson’s mind – the army and skateboarding.
For as long as he can remember, the now 24-year-old from Arizona, wanted to be a soldier.
He admired the uniform, looked up to veterans, and watched and read anything he could about the military.
The only other thing captivating his young imagination was skateboarding.
But as a teenager, Ian could never imagine how both would change his life.
In June 2011, while serving with the US Army in Afghanistan, Ian lost both his legs after stepping on to an IED.
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Sergeant Ian Parkinson is re-learning to skateboard on his prosthetics, after losing both legs when he stepped on an IED while on patrol near Kandahar in Afghanistan
He has had 24 operations, spent two months in hospital and two years in rehabilitation, re-learning to walk and perform everyday tasks including brushing his teeth and feeding himself. By his side the whole time, supporting him, has been his now wife Ashley, pictured right
Twenty-four major operations and two years of rehabilitation later, and the 24-year-old is embarking on a challenge he thought impossible three years ago.
Determined not to lose the hobby he is so passionate about, he is re-learning to skateboard, on his prosthetic legs.
Self-proclaimed as Sergeant Stubbs, Ian has started by trying to master the art of skating on his ‘stubbies’, before he contemplates using full-size prosthetics.
And, not one to shy away from the challenge, Ian and his life-long friend Russell have filmed his progress, documenting Sergeant Stubbs’ return to skating.
‘Getting back on a skateboard was liberating,’ he told MailOnline. ‘To me, it solidified the notion that anything is possible regardless of physical deficiencies.’
He said: ‘When I was around 11 years old, I received a skateboard as a Christmas gift, and it became my addiction. It was something that just consumed me.
‘I loved street skating, and would skate every morning before school, and all evening long after school.
‘By the time I was midway through high school, I had a small sponsorship from a local skate team.’
It was then, in July 2007, that Ian met Ashley through a mutual friend.
‘She was one of the very few things that could pull me away from skateboarding,’ he recalled.
‘Like many young couples we fell in love swiftly and were with one another every chance we could get.’
As teenagers thoughts of marriage were not in their thoughts, but they were overcome by a sense of needing to be together.
‘I’m a year older than Ashley,’ Ian said. ‘So by the time I had graduated and was preparing to go into the Army, Ashley still had another year to go.
‘And as much as I didn’t want to leave Ashley, I knew deep down that enlisting was something I just had to do.’
The couple decided to stay together while Ian joined up.
On April, 28, 2009 he arrived at Fort Benning in Georgia prepared for his first day.
He went on to basic training, infantry training and then to airborne school, where he learned how to be a paratrooper.
Qualified as an infantryman, Ian’s first assignment was a year-long tour in South Korea, where he and his colleagues were tasked with helping guard and train the soldiers there.
His legs were amputated above the knees instantly, and as he fell he suffered a shattered elbow and fractured pelvis
The 24-year-old had two passions as a teenager – he longed to be a soldier and loved skateboarding
When he left high school he signed up and joined the Army, serving as an infantryman. In 2011 he was posted to Kandahar where he served for three months before losing his legs
But the distance and time apart began to take its toll on Ian and Ashley’s relationship.
When Ian arrived home from Korea, the couple knew they wanted to be together, but they needed more stability.
On October 28, 2010, the night before moving on to his next assignment, Ian proposed to Ashley in their home city of Phoenix, Arizona.
The next day, Ian was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division (3rd brigade, 1st battalion, 32nd infantry regiment) at Fort Drum in New York.
In March the following year they were deployed to Kandahar, Afganistan, tasked with eliminating any Taliban threats.
Their mission was also to build relations with the locals, and establish security while the local forces re-built their communities.
‘I held numerous positions while in Afghanistan, machine gunner, radio telephone operator and team leader,’ he told MailOnline.
‘While I was only over there for a little less than three months, I had been engaged in countless fire fights with the enemy.
‘Everyday we would go out into the community on patrol and the majority of the time we would either encounter fire from the enemy or come across IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
‘We primarily travelled on foot, and would generally be out on patrol from four to 15 hours a day.’
On June 6, 2011, while Ian was out with his platoon, on the way back to their combat outpost, they intercepted a Taliban message.
‘It essentially stated they had us in their sites and were about to attack,’ Ian told MailOnline.
Ian and Ashley married in a small ceremony in October 2011, after Ian returned wounded from Afghanistan. They celebrated again this year with a full ceremony and party with family and friends
Ian told MailOnline: ‘I knew I was going to get back on a (skate) board while I was in the hosptial. Never once was I told it wasn’t feasible, or that I shouldn’t try’
‘I turned around to my team mates, informed them of the news and told them to keep their spacing and stay vigilant.
‘As I turned back around I took a few more steps and then at an instance the ground erupted from beneath me.
‘I saw a bright flash then nothing at all as dirt and debris flew up into my face.
‘Simultaneously, I had heard a roar of deafening noising for a split second followed by nothing but the sound of my ears ringing.
‘I was jettisoned into the air; I felt as though I was moving in slow motion – kind of like that feeling when you tip back in your chair, you hit that point where you’ve tipped just a little too far, and you slowly move to the point of rapid descent.
‘In that interval, my mind had the chance to race, producing thoughts of confusing analysis of the situation, and it all came to reality the moment I hit the ground.
‘My legs had been amputated above the knees, instantly. I came down on my left arm and shattered my elbow, my pelvis was fractured in numerous place, and I sustained an abundance of shrapnel wounds and lacerations.
‘I began checking myself out, amazed I was still alive, breathing.
‘I still couldn’t see, but I could hear our lieutenant yell ‘IED’, and our medic following up, said ‘I have a double amputee’.
‘I knew at that point that I was the double amputee.’
The medic rushed to Ian’s side while his friends and colleagues applied multiple tourniquets to his legs.
They dragged him off the small dirt mound he had landed on, while waiting for a helicopter to airlift him to Kandahar hospital.
After emergency treatment to stem the blood flow and stabilise him, Ian was flown to Germany for further treatment.
From there he was transferred back to the U.S. to San Antonio, Texas, where he had the majority of his surgeries and rehabilitation.
Describing the moment the bomb exploded, Ian told MailOnline: ‘I saw a bright flash then nothing at all as dirt and debris flew up into my face. Simultaneously, I had heard a roar of deafening noising for a split second… I was jettisoned into the air; I felt as though I was moving in slow motion’
Ian was airlifted by helicopter from the blast scene to Kandahar Hospital before being transferred to Germany once he was in a stable condition. From there he was flown to San Antonio in Texas for rehabilitation
‘Ashley was by my side throughout the entire process; she waited for me during every surgery, stayed by my bedside as long as she was allowed, and took up the roll as care taker in every possible way,’ he recalled.
‘Not only did she stay with me, but insisted that we still get married – despite major physical changes.’
Ashley’s love showed no bounds, she stuck by Ian through everything.
The couple tied the knot on October 29, 2011 in a small ceremony. This year the couple celebrated their marriage with a full ceremony and celebrations with friends and family.
Ian’s rehabilitation process was extensive, starting with the 24-year-old re-learning how to feed himself and brush his teeth.
‘I had a great deal of nerve damage in my left arm and took a good deal of shrapnel in my right,’ he said.
‘I went on to re-learn how to walk at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio. It is a remarkable facility, I can’t praise them all enough.’
Learning to walk again begins with strengthening the core muscles, Ian explained.
‘Typically, ones first prosthesis are called stubbies, the legs I now use to skateboard with,’ he said.
Ian and Ashley were introduced to one another by a mutual friend while they were still at high school
‘You use them to get a sense of what it feels like to walk on prosthetics, build up your balance and learn to traverse your environment again.
‘Later you graduate to legs with articulating knees, and have to re-learn everything all over again, from going up and down stairs, to stepping over objects and dealing with hills.’
As he grappled with learning to walk again, one thing was on Ian’s mind – when he could get back on to his skateboard.
And March 2012 was his answer.
‘I knew I was going to get back on a board while I was in the hospital,’ he told MailOnline.
‘And that was the first moment that I actually was able to.
‘My nurses, therapists, and doctors were all highly supportive of me skateboarding, and anyone who wanted to continue to live an active lifestyle.
‘Never once was I told it wasn’t feasible, or that I shouldn’t try.’
The facility had a harness, that allowed staff to hook Ian up to allow him to skate.
At first he tried using full-sized prosthetics, not wanting to skate on his stubbies.
‘It wasn’t until the last day I was there, that I realised the stubbies were going to be a much better route to getting back out skateboard,’ he said.
In May 2013, Ian officially separated from the Army.
At the same time he linked up with his life-long friend Russell.
‘We had grown up together, skated together, and didn’t want to let that go,’ Ian said.
‘He wanted to film the progression of my re-learning to skateboard. Which essentially takes me up to today.
‘As the filming and my skateboarding progressed, I felt more comfortable, confident, and enjoyed the sport even more.
‘In the beginning I could hardly ride the skateboard, I’d lose my balance easily and I was so afraid of falling – mostly because of my left elbow, it’s still fragile.
‘I had always enjoyed doing tricks and only being able to do one or two can become redundant. And now, for example, I can roll into the skate park with an array of tricks and do them back to back.
Ian told MailOnline: ‘One of the biggest, positive influences throughout the entire situation has been my wife, Ashley. Without her, I’d be lost. We had been together prior to losing my legs, and she has stuck by my side, she waited for me through every surgery, stayed by my bedside the entire time I was in hospital’
‘I’m still continuing to learn new tricks and tackle larger obstacles, but it’s not as much work.
‘I can try something new for awhile, and when I get tired or frustrated I can take a moment to land a variety of tricks — it’s kind of like a confidence boost. With each new trick I land, a variety of new tricks become available, and it’s more fun than ever.’
Ian said he couldn’t have achieved all that he has so far, and all that he aims for in the future, without the support of his family and close friends.
‘I can’t begin to express how much support I’ved had, and what that has down to motivate me and allow me to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of,’ the now professional web developer, told MailOnline.
‘Everyone has been behind me 100 per cent of the way, and they’re always there to lift my spirits.
‘When it comes to skateboarding, Russell has been my biggest motivation to push my limits.’
He added: ‘I’ve had resounding support from the skating community, nearly every time I go out, someone will go out of their way to say something nice, offer assistance or show their appreciation for my military service.
‘Everyone has been incredibly kind.’
But through everything he has faced, it is Ashley to whom Ian is most grateful.
‘One of the biggest, positive influences throughout the entire situation has been my wife, Ashley,’ he said.
‘Without her, I’d be lost. We had been together prior to losing my legs, and she has stuck by my side, she waited for me through every surgery, stayed by my bedside the entire time I was in hospital.
‘She’s helped in every way she could throughout the entire recovery process, and she’s been my biggest supporter, even when I’m less desirable to be around.
‘She is everything to me.’
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Article source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2869692/How-Sergeant-Stubbs-learned-skateboard-Inspirational-video-shows-Afghanistan-veteran-s-painstaking-determination-board-losing-legs-line-explosion.html