BRISTOL, Tenn. - There are some pretty amazing machines at Bristol Dragway this weekend, but the most incredible piece of technology has nothing to do with cars.
A 45-pound machine is changing one man's life.
Life changed for Gary Linfoot in 2008. "We were out on mission and we had a mechanical malfunction, we lost power to the main rotor, auto rotated had a hard landing and myself and my co pilot received back injuries," says Gary.
That crash in Iraq, during his 20th tour of duty, left gary paralyzed from the waist down. He returned to duty only four months later in a wheelchair and made the best of his new reality, but he always had a feeling that his life was meant to be lived standing up. "I think I knew all along that someway, somehow I would stand and walk again," says Gary.
Then, after five years, his dream came true. The Ekso Bionics exoskeleton put Gary on his feet. Gary says, "Once I activate it, I'm simply shifting my body weight and my CG (center of gravity.) to take a step, for instance if I want to take a step with the right foot I would lean slightly to the left."
It was also a step forward for his wife Mari. "I loved it, He was so tall and I thought we so handsome and it was fun to see him eye to eye and get to hug him without bending over," she says
Still, there there was one more step. "One of the things that has really bothered me since Gary was injured is when he can't stand for the national anthem. The physical things I have to do, lifting wheelchairs and moving things is easy. What's hard is every time the rest of us stand for the national anthem, and he can't stand. It always bothers me to the core of my being," says Mari.
Today, for the first time in seven years, Gary stood to honor his country at Bristol Dragway.
The exoskeleton is funded through a grant from the Infinite Hero foundation. The Linfoots travel the region with the Infinite Hero NHRA team to promote the organization. Visit infinitehero.org for more information.
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