By Emily Klinkenborg | U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. — A golf ball balances on a tee in front of Staff Sgt. Michael Murphy as he aligns his feet, finds a comfortable grip and begins his backswing. In one swift motion, Murphy makes contact with the ball and sends it down the fairway, despite having lost 80 percent of his vision.
“There is no activity that he will not try at least once,” said Marc Cattapan, Adaptive Reconditioning Program (ARP) support specialist, Evans Army Community Hospital. “His dedication to training, drive to succeed and positive mental attitude are truly outstanding traits.”
Murphy, an unmanned aerial vehicle operator, entered the Fort Carson Soldier Readiness Unit (SRU) after sustaining a head injury while on a nine-month rotation to Europe with the 4th Infantry Division. The impact triggered a rare genetic condition known as Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) — causing sudden vision loss due to swelling of the optic nerves.
The mission of the SRU, previously known as the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB), is to provide wounded, ill and injured Soldiers with the support and resources needed to be successful during their rehabilitation process.
The Army began restructuring WTBs into SRUs in 2019 with a new, streamlined process called the Army Recovery Care Program (ARCP), previously known as the Warrior Care and Transition Program.
Under the ARCP, Soldiers in process through the Complex Care Platoon before transitioning to either the Return to Duty Platoon or the Veteran Track Platoon. Murphy is currently in the Veteran Track Platoon.
“He takes chances on things that may seem impossible to others,” said Staff Sgt. Stanley Jacobson, Murphy’s former Complex Care Platoon squad leader. “It can be challenging to build resiliency in our SRU Soldiers, but Staff Sgt. Murphy’s positive attitude motivates and inspires us all.”
The road to recovery can be an emotional journey and Murphy is no stranger to the process.
“At first, I was in denial, but when I learned that my condition was permanent, that was when I was at my lowest,” said Murphy. “I used to be so independent and it was aggravating for me to ask people for help. I was trying to do it on my own. I had to open my mind and my heart, and just let people in to help.”
Murphy attributes his optimism to staying active and finding ways to explore the outdoors. Aside from golfing, cycling and kayaking, conquering the Manitou Incline has become one of his favorite outdoor activities, with a personal record of 27 minutes, 31 seconds.
“My advice for other SRU Soldiers and really all Soldiers is to just find whatever drives you,” said Murphy. “Use resources like the (Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation), Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers events, ARP and others to keep you physically and mentally healthy.”
After transitioning to civilian life, Murphy plans to return to school to become an occupational therapist and assist others in overcoming their obstacles.
“Having goals gives me a sense of hope and purpose,” said Murphy. “I want to show everyone that staying fit and active is possible no matter what injury you have.”