Amputee soldier bounces back

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 07:16 06/02/2013
Corporal Jason Sturley
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ
Corporal Jason Sturley has been named as the New Zealand Defence Force person of the year.

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Corporal Jason Sturley has worked his way back to frontline fitness after losing his leg four years ago.

His determination to recover was among the reasons he was awarded the New Zealand Defence Force Person of the Year award.

The NZDF Person of the Year award is given to the person who has best exemplified defence force values of courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity in the past 12 months.

Corporal Sturley accepted his award in front of his wife Karen, sons Jonathan, 17, Curtis, 13, and Antony, 11, and his parents at a ceremony at the Linton Military Camp yesterday.

The award ‘‘blew me out of the water’’, he said.

After training and working in a number of disciplines, including gaining his private and commercial pilot’s licence, working as a mechanic and then training to be a horticulturist and working in a nursery, Palmerston North-born Corporal Sturley, joined the armed forces eight years ago.

Starting out as a private, Corporal Sturley was on deployment in the Solomon Islands in 2007 when he had an accident and badly injured his leg.

Eighteen months later, suffering from septicaemia, he was faced with the decision of having his leg removed.

It was amputated below the knee.

Corporal Sturley decided to watch, as part of the ‘‘letting-go process’’.

After it was gone, he just wanted to get on with learning to walk again. ‘‘Learning to walk is a mission,’’ he said.

His military training proved useful – he was used to marching heel to toe, so he quickly recovered from a common problem amputees face of swinging their leg from the hip, and was soon swimming and learning how to run again.

He admits ‘‘destroying’’ a few of his false legs in the process, trying to do things he wasn’t quite up for.

Since re-entering the army, Corporal Sturley has worked his way back up, last year passing his junior non-commissioned officer test and being promoted to corporal.

He now works in the 2nd engineer workshops, like his father before him, where he is in charge of the repairs section.

Next month, he will head to California, having been selected to compete in the United States Marine Corps Paralympic Trials, individually in swimming, shooting and archery, and as part of a team in swimming relay, volleyball and basketball.

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It is Corporal Sturley’s hope that he will be deployed overseas on the front line again in the near future.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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