Your feel-good story of the day features retired Army helicopter pilot Gary Linfoot.
The Infinite Hero Foundation showed its worth again this weekend at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colorado, site of the NHRA Mile High Nationals. The foundation, supported by sunglass maker Oakley’s dedication to helping others achieve all that they can, brought retired Army helicopter pilot Gary Linfoot to the racetrack to show off his exoskeleton, which helps Linfoot paralyzed below the waist after a crash in the Iraqi desert in 2008 walk again.
Linfoot first began working with the exoskeleton in late January of this year and now has more than six months experience, literally under his belt. “The first time I stood up in it was such a cool feeling,” said the six foot tall soldier. The experimental Ekso suit has only a few individuals doing research and development in the hopes that, rather than having to spend $125,000 for an item of this type, the unit may be readily and financially available to others so afflicted in the future, thanks to Infinite Hero and Oakley.
Meeting with U.S. Armysponsored Top Fuel driver and seventime champion Tony Schumacher and Infinite Herosponsored Funny Car 2012 champion Jack Beckman, Linfoot was able to navigate the difficult terrain of NHRA’s paddock atop the Bandimere Speedway racetrack. He came from his home in Clarksville, Tenn, taking a plane to Dallas/Ft Worth and on to Denver to attend this Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
When we spoke, he was certainly enjoying himself, even with the intense heat permeating the area in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Linfoot has well over 100,000 steps recorded using his Ekso Bionics suit since he started working with this experimental device. He straps in five days a week and normally records about 11,001,600 steps daily. While the technology for this innovative device is still quite new, Linfoot feels certain it will advance quickly, as does most modern technology. He’s made numerous strides since walking around the Statue of Liberty last Veteran’s Day in a prototype suit.
This was an appropriate venue for Linfoot, a 20 year veteran and member of the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, who was in his 19th combat tour in Iraq when his helicopter suffered a mechanical failure and crashed.
The Infinite Hero Foundation, together with Oakley continues to raise awareness of wounded warriors’ needs and has provided well over $1 million in grants to those in need. The nonprofit foundation’s active participation in NHRA drag racing through its sponsorship of Don Schumacher Racing’s Beckman and Schumacher certainly aids in raising awareness as much as funding in assisting veterans and their families.