Air Force Vet Turns Tragedy Into Inspiration to Lift Others

Brother's Keepers shows wounded vets how much they can still get out of life

Jack Fanning, a decorated veteran who served six tours of duty in the Middle East, inspired his fellow soldiers while in combat. Now, he's inspiring people all over the world in a different way.

Fanning, who served in the U.S. Air Force Special Operations, said his service was "an exciting job. We get the benefits of being in the Air Force but we get to play Army and Navy, so... It was a lot of fun,” Fanning recalled.

In 2010, after spending three years teaching other soldiers, Fanning wanted back in the game. He was training to be part of an elite force on a night that would completely change his life.

He remembered how he thought he was 200 feet in the air. But in reality, he was only about 10 feet from the ground.

“I released my rucksack, and bam, I hit the ground at about 30 knots and never had the opportunity to hit my breaks. I was immediately paralyzed,” said Fanning.

Fanning, now a paraplegic, endured through the various stages of grief before making the decision that he wasn't going to let his injuries change him.

“I realized I could overcome it," said Fanning. "Even being paralyzed from the neck down, I could still go jump out of an airplane, I could shoot I could hunt. I can snow ski. I can scuba dive."

But doing it himself wasn't enough.

Jack and a group of friends started a non-profit, called Brother's Keepers. The organization shows wounded vets how much they can still get out of life, taking them on what Fanning calls "experiential retreats."

“Like going sky diving, or going to Utah, snow skiing with kids and spouse; we show these guys and girls they can still function at a high level and do fun things with their families,” Fanning explained.

He says by the end of each trip they all know it was worth it.

“We're hugging and crying and laughing and we've become family. And at that point, Brother's Keepers, we keep them in that family tree,” he said.

It’s a project that has given Jack Fanning a purpose.

“I just want to help other guys and girls out there who are hurting, no matter what the case is,” Fanning said.

ONLINE: Brother's Keepers official website

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