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Marines recover with physical therapy

By Cpl. Skye Jones | | June 28, 2005

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(Photo by Cpl. Skye Jones)

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(Photo by Cpl. Skye Jones)

Photo Details | Download |

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- When Gunnery Sgt. Richard D. Blackmon deployed to Iraq, he hadn't planned on returning early to go to physical therapy.

Now that Blackmon is back at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, he is working on recovery. His goals are to get off light-duty status and run a full physical fitness test before retiring.

The Branch Medical Clinic, MCAS Miramar Physical Therapy Clinic aids Marines like Blackmon everyday, helping them with their individual fitness needs on their road to rehabilitation.

"I was going to physical therapy for a shoulder injury before I deployed," said Blackmon, company gunnery sergeant, airfield operations, Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "I tore it up further when I went out with my captain to investigate a rocket attack. We were being attacked, and we took off running when I jumped over a hill and landed on my shoulder."

After being evaluated, Blackmon was sent to the Baghdad Army Hospital in Al Asad, Iraq for treatment and eventually back to Miramar.

"I was not happy," said the Muskogee, Okla., native. "It's one thing to leave because you're injured, but I just tore my shoulder. Now I just want to do a full PFT, even if I can only do a few pull-ups."

According to Petty Officer 2nd Class Judith Grimes, physical therapist technician, BMC, MCAS Miramar, every patient comes to the clinic with a different goal.

"Some of them want to be on full duty, some of them want to run a full PFT and some of them just want to walk again," said the Long Island, N.Y., native. "We tailor our therapy to meet the individual needs of each patient."

The physical therapy center has four technicians, a therapist and a chiropractor who aids active duty servicemembers, activated reservists and dependents (on a case-by-case basis) weekly.

"I've seen everything from skeletal injuries, hip and knee replacements to torn ligaments and bone fractures," said Grimes. "Some Marines obtain their injuries from playing sports on duty, getting into accidents off duty and coming back from Iraq wounded. We assist with repairing these injuries and educating patients on proper exercises, like properly strengthening their backs if they have spinal problems."

The clinic's therapist, technicians and chiropractor all work as one team to ensure that every patient is taken care of.

"Unlike the civilian world, we all work interdependently with each other," said Dr. Bart Green, chiropractor, BMC. "The medical doctors and corpsmen all provide excellent care, which is all part of the full health care system here. Also, in the military all of the patients are very motivated to get better and it feels great to be able to make them feel better, so they can do their job and have a better quality of life."  

After making progress at physical therapy, the majority of patients will go to follow-up treatment at the Semper Fit Center, where Grimes teaches a core strengthening and gym class throughout the week.

"The Marines are very appreciative, and that's why I love doing my job," said Grimes. "Some of the Marines on limited duty have to go up on medical discharge boards, and I want to prevent that from happening. The majority of them go back on full duty, and that makes this job worthwhile."

Blackmon hopes to recover from his injury and to run a first class PFT by December.

"I couldn't do it alone," he said. "The therapists like Petty Officer Grimes are really concerned about your well-being, and they want you to get better. They're very knowledgeable and great at what they do.  They don't show up to work because they have to, they show up because they care."

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