Before Andrew Pike turned 20 years old, his ability to enjoy his favorite pastimes of hunting and fishing were taken away after a wartime injury in Iraq. But with the help of a few Idaho volunteers, companies and a high-tech wheelchair, Pike can once again enjoy the outdoors with as much freedom as before.
A belated Christmas gift
KTVB Boise reported that Pike, now a 28-year-old Army veteran, was honored at the Idaho Statehouse Jan. 22. After a speech on his behalf by Governor C.L. Otter, Pike was presented with a specialized all-terrain wheelchair – complete with a gun rack – that will allow the paralyzed serviceman to hunt and fish again.
The motorized wheelchair has special treads that can move through the difficult terrain normally encountered on a day of trekking through the woods. Most importantly, though, is an automatic system that moves Pike from a seated to a standing position, making it much easier for him to spot game and aim steady. For ease of use, it also features hand-held controls and a flashlight.
Line of fire
Pike enlisted in the Army right after high school and was in Iraq as a Specialist with the 82nd Airborne Division on his first ever deployment. He was patrolling the northern city of Baiji when a sniper's bullet paralyzed him for life from the waist down.
It was during his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that Pike was introduced to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), an organization that not only assures that soldiers receive their military benefits in a timely manner, but also supports medical research for spinal cord injuries.
While Pike's path toward regaining his mobility began with the PVA, it took a few more organizations full of dedicated volunteers to help it along.
The wheelchair was created and donated by Higher Ground, an Idaho-based firm focused on adaptive recreation. Through therapy or mechanical assistance, Higher Ground seeks to "enhance quality of life through inclusive therapeutic recreation and education for people of all abilities," according to the company's website.
The funds for the wheelchair were raised in tandem by the PVA and The Independence Fund, a non-profit organization that supplements the normal aid and support available to wounded servicemembers through veterans benefits programs.
Sitting in his new wheelchair, Pike can't help but be hopeful.
"The only thing you can do is look to what's in the future, look to what you can do, and take those things and build on them, and if somebody says you can't, then find a way to do it," he told KTVB