BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — With bullets whizzing past his face, Staff Seargent Timothy Payne feared he wouldn’t return from his tour of service. He lead a squad which faced heavy gunfire in the grape vineyards in Afghanistan.
His squad walked away from that firefight, but a week later, he didn’t come up so lucky. During his unit’s last patrol, he was assigned the job of cleaning out dead space outside his base.
“On my way back to my men, that’s when I got blown up. It was a huge explosion,” Payne said. “I knew what happened to me the second it happened.”
Payne was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) planted by Taliban fighters July 3, 2011. Two of his fellow soldiers rushed to him and applied tourniquets to both of his legs to stop the bleeding. Payne said they told him he was going to be fine, and he believed them. But he didn’t realize the difficult road ahead.
“I had over 120 surgeries, and I got 100 units of blood in the process,” Payne said.
But Payne healed; his surgeries were successful. His road to recovery, though, was long. Payne said he swims every day without stopping. He trains to retain arm strength, critical as he lost both his legs in the explosion.
Payne doesn’t let the loss of his legs stop him, though. He gets around in a wheelchair, but when that won’t do, he’s developed his own methods of getting around. Payne can maneuver his way around with only his hands.
The only thing that’s gotten him through, he said, was his promise to God just days before the explosion.
“l knew something bad was going to happen, and I prayed another prayer, get me out of here, and if you have to take my legs, take my legs,” Payne prayed. “I’ll do whatever you want me to do, I’ll spread your word and that’s it.”
With another surgery scheduled for next week, Payne is focused on continuing to adapt and overcome his disability.
“I have to show them that I can adapt and overcome just as well as anyone else should be able to,” he said. “It’s just adapt and overcome.”
Payne wrote a book about his story. “The Bargain & The Squad Leader” is only available for purchase here.