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"I’m not a runner, and I don’t like running,” says GiGi Windsor of Marion Station, MD. “Running a marathon is a huge obstacle that will forever change my life. When I wonder how I’m going to be able to do this, I think of Kenny.”
U. S. Marine Corporal Kenny Lyon, Windsor’s son, joined the Marine Corps in October 2004. The 18-year old LAV mechanic went straight from his military occupational specialty training school to Iraq for an 8-month deployment. After just under a year back home, he was sent on a second deployment which would forever change his life.
On May 1, 2006, Lyon was working to repair an armored vehicle, when a mortar exploded.
“His first surgery was immediate,” said Windsor. “The doctors took his left leg the very first night while he was still in Iraq.”
According to a 60-Minutes documentary, five surgeons worked to save Lyon’s life. He had lost half his blood and surgeons could not stop the bleeding in his left leg. After amputating the leg, the surgeons were able to control Lyon’s bleeding. After several more surgeries that evening, Lyon was moved to Germany for four days.
Lyon returned to the United States on May 5 and went to the National Naval Medical Center ICU. The next day Lyon marked his 21st birthday.
“When he got back it was awful. He was injured from head to toe,” said Windsor. “Surgeons had cut open his stomach because of internal bleeding. He was missing his left leg. Shrapnel covered his head, his face, his right leg and he was missing a piece of skull over his right eye. His right lower jaw was missing. You couldn’t look at him anywhere that he wasn’t injured. It was horrific.”
“There was a lot of praying for him to keep breathing,” Windsor continued. “I knew as long as he kept breathing, I could deal with anything that happened.”
Lyon was an inpatient at the National Naval Medical Center for three months, an inpatient at Walter Reed for one month, and then an outpatient for almost three years.“
Kenny would wheel himself over to the hospital from the Malone House where we were staying every morning for three years,” said Windsor. “He had physical therapy (waist down) in morning for three hours. Then he went for occupational therapy (waist up) in the afternoon because his left hand didn’t work. The nerves were destroyed so he was relearning how to do things like open a door and hold a fork; all things we take for granted.
“Kenny still struggles with his left foot being on fire today, but it doesn’t exist,” said Windsor. “He deals with this on a daily basis. He had issues internally, externally, a lot of injuries. He would get sores on the nub and couldn’t wear the prosthetic until it healed, and then he would have to relearn all over again how to walk. Once, the tendon they tied to the bone came undone and he had to have surgery to fix it. After the surgery there was a six week wait to put the prosthetic leg back on, and once again he had to learn to walk. Each time he thought he was getting somewhere, he’d have to start all over again. He never gave up; he just kept saying this is what I have to do.”
While Lyon was recovering, Windsor met Amy Galvez, the mother of Cpl Adam Galvez, who had replaced Lyon in Iraq. On Aug 20, Galvez was riding in the LAV that Lyon would have been on when it ran over an IED killing all but one of the Marines on board.
Amy was preparing to run the Marine Corps Marathon with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) for Adam in 2012. Additionally, Homes For Our Troops, a company that built Kenny a 100% accessible home, was recruiting volunteers to cheer in the 2012 MCM.
"I live near the area, Amy lives in Utah,” said Windsor. “I don’t get to see her much, so I went to cheer her on. While I was at the event, I realized this is so awesome. I had to run for the Semper Fi Fund because they did so much for me while Kenny was healing. They supported me every month so I could pay my bills and my mortgage while I was with Kenny at the Malone House. I wanted to give back to them.”
“I run four days a week, three short days of three to six miles then on the weekend I do a long run,” said Windsor. “It’s been horrible, but I’ve come to enjoy the run, the peace of being by yourself, being outside, being able to run. It’s a blessing.”
“On those long runs I’m thinking of everything Kenny has persevered through,” Windsor continued. “When he put on the prosthetic, he thought he would walk again right away. He didn’t realize how hard it would be and how much effort it would take; how painful it would be. When I want to give up, I think of Kenny, his buddies who didn’t come home, and what it must be like to not be able to run. This keeps me motivated to finish my run.”
Windsor says her children were raised to give back to the community, and that Lyon thinks it is awesome that she is giving back to the Semper Fi Fund.“
Kenny says out loud ‘Mom, you’re going to rock it,’ but his mind is saying ‘Mom, are you crazy,’” said Windsor.
“When Kenny woke up from his coma, he wondered how am I going to be able to do this,” Windsor said. “Running this marathon is kind of like that. I know once I cross the finish line everything else will be easier. What’s to stop me from doing something else?”
Windsor expects to cross the finish line in five hours and will share this emotional victory with Lyon.
“Kenny is going to be at the finish to put the medal around my neck.”
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