To some, the American Airlines Sky Ball in support of the Airpower Foundation might just be a nice gala at an airport hangar at DFW International Airport to raise money for ill, wounded and injured service members, veterans and their families. But for me and my family, Sky Ball is personal.
Eight years ago, I attended my very first Sky Ball gala. That night forever changed my life.
In early 2008, I was injured while on active duty in Iraq when the helicopter I was flying had a mechanical failure and crashed. I became paralyzed from the waist down and, as a result, went from a strapping soldier to a man in a wheelchair.
Later that year at Sky Ball VI, I was honored to receive an iBOT mobility device from the Airpower Foundation. This device allowed me to be more independent, and I was able to start speaking in classrooms and visiting schools to teach them about honor, valor and sacrifice.
Fast forward two years: At Sky Ball X, I was able to stand and walk across the stage, confounding all expectations, thanks to a device called an EksoSKeleton. I was lucky enough to become the first veteran to receive the EksoSKeleton for personal use from the Infinite Hero Foundation. I was honored to walk across the stage at Sky Ball and serve as a source of inspiration and healing for all those in attendance.
As you can see, two incredibly significant personal milestones have taken place at Sky Ball. And because of Sky Ball, a third milestone will take place next Saturday.
I will walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding in my Ekso, a dream I thought I had to give up after my accident.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Eight years ago, I was in a wheelchair, and in just one week, I will walk my daughter down the aisle. It’s a moment every father lives for.
My family and I look forward to Sky Ball every year. We are grateful for the opportunity to connect with so many friends and loved ones whom we see as our extended family. Sky Ball, which takes place this weekend, is a time of healing, celebration and encouragement as we work together to raise funds to help families just like mine.
Everything from Friday’s concert honoring members of the law enforcement community featuring Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band to Saturday night’s black tie gala and program celebrating the men and women of the United States Special Operations Command is a first-class experience.
Retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Gary Linfoot served with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) and was paralyzed in 2008 when his helicopter went down in Iraq. He has over 20 combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1,200 hours of combat flight time. His decorations include the Combat Action Badge, Master Aviator Badge, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, among several others.