In 1999, after two years of college and finally convincing his family to get on-board with the plan, Heath enlisted in the U.S. Army. After training he quickly rose through the ranks before setting off to serve in Iraq as a squad leader in the famed 101st Airborne Division.
In 2003, while riding with his convoy, Heath’s team was struck by a grenade that killed one soldier and damaged his legs irreparably. He was sent home where he faced amputation above both knees, nine months of recovery, the loss of a career, and a new life as a bilateral amputee.
What could have been a sorrowful tale of valor met with broken dreams became one of hope as Heath’s resiliency was revealed. Determined not to let his new reality alter any of his life aspirations, Heath set about learning all he could about the possibilities of prosthetic technology, attending seminars around the country and learning from the best. He acquired several different sets of prosthetic legs, designed for the respective activities he’d loved before his accident - running, golfing, swimming, and biking.
Heath also took up downhill skiing using a monoski. He fell in love with the sport during his recovery and, because he’s a badass, moved temporarily to Colorado to train, eventually landing a spot in the 2010 Paralympics, where he was also chosen to bear the flag for the U.S. team at the Opening Ceremonies.
Back at home in Clarksville, Tennessee, Heath’s passions reside with his family and riding. If he’s not with his children, he’s enmeshed in the motorcycle world, working full time at the local Harley-Davidson dealership and adding to the 7,500 miles he’s already clocked in one year of owning his bike. For Heath, the saddle of a Harley and his skis are paths to freedom from the stresses and strains of everyday life. They are a means for embracing the sometimes unforgiving world around him.
For his contribution to the Freedom Jacket, Heath sewed a 101st Airborne Division patch onto the sleeve. It’s an addition not to be taken lightly, just as his story is a steadfast reminder to stay true to your passions.