Double amputee speaks at UCM


PHOTO BY CASSIE SLANA / SENIOR WRITER Cedric King (right) is introduced by President Chuck Ambrose Wednesday, Sept. 21 during the third Ike Skelton Lecture in the Servant Leadership Lecture Series.

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Senior Writer

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Master Sgt. Cedric King’s life changed forever when he lost both legs.

King shared his story with students, faculty and fellow soldiers Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the University of Central Missouri in Hendricks Hall during the third Ike Skelton Lecture in the Servant Leadership Lecture series.

PHOTO BY CASSIE SLANA / SENIOR WRITER Cedric King (right) is introduced by President Chuck Ambrose Wednesday, Sept. 21 during the third Ike Skelton Lecture in the Servant Leadership Lecture Series.
Cedric King (right) is introduced by President Chuck Ambrose Wednesday, Sept. 21 during the third Ike Skelton Lecture in the Servant Leadership Lecture Series.

Before joining the Army in 1995, King said he grew up in a poor town in North Carolina.

“It’s very difficult to think outside of somewhere when you live there all your life,” King said. “I always thought, ‘Well, you know what? I don’t quite think I’m smart enough to go to college, so I don’t want to waste my parents’ money, so I’ll just go into the Army.’”

After joining the Army, King said he began to enjoy serving because it wasn’t about having good grades or a high GPA, it was about excelling at the basics.

“It was having a great attitude and pushing yourself,” King said. “Those were the things that got you recognized and this was far different than any other concept I’d heard of before.”

King attended ranger school in Fort Benning, Georgia, and said it taught him about himself and about failure.

“To become an army ranger, I had to fail so many times,” King said. “That taught me a lot about resolve and persistence. Ranger school taught me failure isn’t final, it is part of the journey.”

Loss, failure, learning and persistence were the main themes of King’s speech.

King said he was on his third overseas deployment when his platoon was attacked and he stepped on an improvised explosive device. He said his platoon was conducting a simple reconnaissance mission that day. He said everything was going according to plan until the unthinkable happened.

“I turned, picked up (my) right foot and set it down and started to head out toward the opening that we had created,” King said. “As soon as I do that, I can remember the loudest sound I’ve ever heard. And a force that I’ve never felt before.”

King said it felt like someone threw him into a fire and he could feel shrapnel covering his body. He said he tried to stand up, unaware of the extent of his injuries immediately after the explosion.

“I felt for the first time, like, my life is turning into an episode of M.A.S.H.,” he said.

King said he started panicking when medics loaded him on a gurney and put a mask on his face.

“Nobody knows when their time’s up,” he said. “We all have to understand that this precious life is a gift.”

Doctors put King in a medically induced coma, and were forced to amputate his legs to keep him alive. He suffered severe internal injuries and partial loss of his right arm and hand. King said his wife, Khieda, and two daughters, Amari and Khamya, got him through his struggles and keep him moving forward today.

When King awoke from his coma eight days later in Maryland, he said he saw his mother, his wife and a nurse.

“They explained to me that over the last eight days, the docs had almost lost me twice,” King said. “The first time they were losing me, they had to amputate one of the legs. And since that didn’t work, they had to take the other one. And during that time when she was explaining it to me, it was almost like I did not believe it happened.”

King said he experienced phantom pains which made him perceive feeling in his limbs even though they were no longer there. King said he had to grieve for the person he was before losing his legs.

“All my life, my identity was tied up into what I did,” he said. “I’m a United States Army Ranger. I’m a combat warrior. I thought that what I did was who I was. Life was giving me the unique opportunity to understand that that is totally false.”

King said we often think the things we do should balance the outcomes we experience in our lives, but good and bad happen in all our lives.

“It can no longer be about you,” King said. “It can no longer be about your pain, about your anguish. It has to be totally focused on your betterment.”

King said he finally found answers when he tried to interpret how his challenges were a blessing.

Four year ago, the Olympics were in London and King was in a hospital bed. That’s when he first witnessed fellow amputee, Oscar Pistorius, running amongst able-bodied men.

King said he knew he could exceed expectations like the man he’d seen on television, but his doctor was skeptical.

“For so long I sat there discouraged, not believing what my heart had already told me,” King said.

He said one of the best lessons that he’s learned over the past four years of recovery is to follow your heart, not your head.

King needed to relearn how to walk. After learning to walk with two railings for support, his therapist knew it was time to let go.

King said his therapist knew that to succeed, he had to make King uncomfortable. He said he fell after trying to take a step, but his therapist thought he was doing great.

“He said, ‘Walking isn’t the lesson today. The lesson today is being OK with falling,’” King said. “And more than being OK with falling, it’s getting back up.”

King competed in the Boston Marathon 21 months after his injury. He has also completed a half Ironman Triathlon, the 2014 New York City Marathon and the 48.6 mile Disney Marathon series, according to King’s website.

King said to learn how to live an awesome life, you’ve got to be OK with falling.

“You’ve got to be OK with looking like a fool,” he said. “You’re going to have to believe in something inside of you that you can’t see; you’re going to have to believe in something you can’t bank on. And that’s where true life happens.

“This is the curriculum of life; the test that we all go through. Continue to keep moving forward in spite of the challenges. Continue to move forward with a smile and a song in your heart. Continue to move forward no matter what the challenges are, and soon, you will be out of the sharpener. Soon, you’ll be past the obstacle. And soon, you’ll be happy that you went through it.”