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ATF steps up when Marine gets third chance at life

When Marine Staff Sergeant Andrew Bachelder got a third chance at life, Adaptive Training Foundation was there to help him grab it. 

Six years earlier, while in Afghanistan on his third deployment, Andrew had kissed his wedding ring as he always did when boarding a helicopter. He and his six-man crew were to follow another copter on a routine escort mission. 

“Keep us safe,” he had whispered with that kiss.

The talisman wouldn’t be enough. On Oct. 26, 2009, the two helicopters lost sight of each other in the pre-dawn dark and desert dust. They collided and fell 500 feet to the ground, killing four of the six Marines aboard.

Andrew survived, but the horrific crash had broken his pelvis, hip, back, right shoulder and both bones of his lower right leg. He had a traumatic brain injury and deep lacerations in his left hip. Somehow, he managed to move his broken body away from the flaming wreckage and further injury. 

He wanted to live. Doctors weren’t sure he would. 

Back to … life?
Andrew lived to endure endless tests, seven surgeries, a hip prosthesis and constant pain. Bedridden for three months and in a wheelchair for six more, he couldn’t take care of his wife or two young children. And he couldn’t play golf, his passion since he was 11 years old and his haven from stress.

Somewhere in all that pain and frustration, Andrew lost himself.

“I was angry, and I shut myself off,” he said. “I pushed my family away. I pushed my friends away. And I just buried everything inside.”

This decorated Marine had faced the enemy without fear, but he couldn’t face this: unable to play with his children, dependent on his wife for almost everything, his dream of becoming a professional golfer gone. After three years, he’d had enough. His wife came home just in time to save Andrew from his attempted suicide. 

“She could have just left me there, after everything I’d put her through. But she didn’t,” he said. “Debi has always been my rock, and she was my rock then.”

Her courage and kindness inspired Andrew to rededicate himself to getting better. Enter David Vobora and the Adaptive Training Foundation. 

Turning point
“I met David in a suite at a Cowboys game. When I told him what I’d been through and that I wanted to golf professionally, I could see his mind go in a hundred different directions,” Andrew said. “He really wants to help people and gets involved personally.”

After retiring from the NFL due to injury, Vobora developed a passion for helping others who have sustained life-altering injuries or were born without limbs. His goal is to redefine the limits of individuals with disabilities through his Adaptive Training Foundation, an organization centered on a workout gym in Dallas.

David designed a custom workout based on Andrew’s limitations and goals. They focused on strengthening Andrew’s core and the muscles needed to swing a golf club.  

“I told David that I got more discouraged on the golf course than anywhere – not because I had a bad [golf] stroke, but because I knew what my potential was and I wasn’t reaching it,” Andrew said.

He could tell a physical difference after the first month. But the most significant improvement has been mental, reflected in his rapidly improved golf game.

“Golf is a confidence game, meaning that when you address the ball, you have to be confident that you’ll hit a great shot. David and the gym have given me the confidence I need to keep improving my game and my life,” Andrew said. 

The Marine who once thought he’d never take another walk with his family won the 2015 Wounded Warrior Open golf tournament hosted by former President George W. Bush. The win earned for him an invitation to the American Century Championship in July. It’s a major step toward becoming a pro golfer. 

He always credits his wife, family and friends first, and then ATF.

“The gym changed the way I look at everything. I had a lot of injuries, sure, but I have all my limbs. To see those who don’t have theirs work so hard and strive to live life to its fullest is inspiring,” he said.“This place can change your life.”