Tyson Quink’s journey into the military started with football. “My focus as an eighteen-year-old was how to play football in college. One day I got a call from an assistant coach at West Point looking to see if I was interested in playing football for the service academy. My initial feelings were that of excitement coupled with a little bit of fear of the rigors of West Point and entering the military during a time of war.” The chance to play Division I college football while also having his school paid for ultimately sold Tyson on West Point.
During his sophomore year, Tyson began dating his future wife, Tera, the first female head football manager at West Point. They got married after graduation, and Tyson was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery, and Tera was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Signal Corps.
After completing training, the Quinks were assigned to Fort Drum, New York right as the brigade they were joining was redeploying. In March 2011, Tyson and Tera were deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Tyson remembers, “The city has a rich history and beautiful landscape but it was overwhelmed with fierce fighting.”
A few months after their arrival, Tyson was leading a platoon tasked with conducting a checkpoint at an intersection of two scarcely traveled roads. “On June 5th 2011, we left the outpost on the heels of our second platoon, who were actively engaging the enemy to the west of our location. I noted how dark it was and how difficult it was to see anything. Just before moving, I mumbled, ‘It’s so dark. Someone is going to get hurt tonight.’ Soldiers found multiple IEDs in the area, so we called for a soldier with a metal detector to clear the path of any others. I took a step back to let the soldier walk past me, and my foot triggered a pressure plate IED that was unknowingly located directly behind me.”
“At that point, I lost all senses but could still talk to myself in what felt like a dark void in a new world. I realized, or at least thought at the time, I was dead. Then my eyes began to open. I lifted my head and could see a few inches of my tibia from my right leg protruding out the bottom of my leg to where my foot should have been. Every piece of tissue from my foot to about four inches above my ankle was gone. I could not see how bad my left leg was at this point, but I knew there was a similar injury to the leg. I later found out that the blast also took about two inches above the ankle on my left leg.”
Tyson was MEDEVAC’d to a nearby hospital and his wife, who was in Afghanistan serving as brigade communication support, was flown in to be with him. Tyson was placed in a medical coma and operated on twice before being transported to Walter Reed hospital back in the United States.
“Like most new amputees, my recovery was a challenge because I had no context of how or what being an amputee meant. I also had to have a significant mental mindset shift. I just left a combat zone, where I was responsible for the soldiers’ lives in my platoon, and now I was dependent on everyone around me for essential functions of life.”
After regular surgeries to treat infections and burns, Tyson decided he wanted to go back to West Point to finish out his military service. “I understood pretty quickly that I was being given the wounded veteran career title as a function of being at Walter Reed, and that was something I wanted nothing to do with. I wanted to be known for the family I have and the work I do.”
After coaching football at West Point Prep and retiring from the military in 2013, Tyson had to figure out his next steps. His wife was still stationed at West Point and they had just welcomed their first child. He realized, “As a Cadet at West Point, I majored in Geospatial Information Science, which I enjoyed, so I decided it would be best to go back to school and get my Master’s degree.” The family went on to welcome two more children as they were assigned to Texas and then Virginia, where they live today and where Tyson enjoys a fulfilling career supporting our nation’s defense in addressing national security problems.
Life balance is important to Tyson. “My wife and kids are a big part of my life. It has been incredible to see my kids grow and figure out what makes them excited about life. My wife has been by my side the whole time, taking care of me when I was physically unable and helping with day-to-day tasks that are still sometimes difficult for an amputee to do. I don’t know if I would have made it as far without her.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation looks forward to building Tyson and his family a home where his children can grow up and achieve their dreams and he can more easily and fully participate in the sports, activities and daily routines his family enjoys.