After losing his leg to an IED during the Iraq conflict, Craig Hall beat all the odds – and within five months of prosthetic surgery, was back on his bike doing what he loves most.
Craig has always had a passion for motocross, and it would seem that no improvised explosive device could change that – “when I was a kid, that’s really all I knew – trail riding and racing”. Steve Hall, Craig’s father, brought up his son on racing and by the age of 11 he was starting to collect trophies on the dirt. In fact, they were both racing professionally at one point, with the Craig taking home the New England Dirt Track Series Open Amateur Class Champion trophy in 1999.
In 2005, 23-year-old Craig walked into an Army building and joined up. By October 2006, he’d been deployed to Kuwait, where he trained in the scorching heat for two weeks before being sent to Iraq. His mission was simple: roll down a 25-click (kilometer) stretch of highway in the heart of Iraq looking for improvised explosive devices, hope to find the devices before they explode, or if they do explode, hope the heavily fortified tank absorbs the blast.
On April 27, 2007 his crew decided to turn up a dirt road to scout a location where they could surveil the highway. That stretch of road, near Samarra, had seen a lot of IEDs lately, and his commanding officer wanted to see if they could catch the culprits. “All of the sudden, I remember feeling the concussion, just a huge explosion, and then you see the dust and the flames.”
Mr. Hall’s tank had struck a pressure-detonated IED, which he described as two two-by-fours separated with springs that collapse when struck, setting off 130 mm mortar rounds. “I thought I was OK. I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “That’s when I noticed my knee was pointed to the left and my foot was pointed to the right.”
Craig had two options: fill the lower extremity with concrete and haul around a gimpy leg, or amputate and rehabilitate with a prosthetic. He chose the latter option, and several weeks later found himself at the Center for the Intrepid, a rehabilitation centre for amputees at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
After months of hard work, Craig was fitted for his prosthetic, and within a matter of months he was back on the bike. He’s continued to ride over the years, despite pain and personal tragedy. But, more recently Craig’s life got a little bit easier when he received a brand new bionic leg that uses clever technology to simulate the boost one gets from one’s ankle. “It works like a regular ankle,” Craig said of the $40,000 piece, which uses electronic propulsion to help reduce the effort needed to walk.
Since his new bionic leg has been fitted, Craig has been very busy, racing the Mexican 1,000, an extreme five-day race covering more than 1,000 miles through Mexico. He’s also been appearing in videos by Warfighter Made, a California non-profit that customises vehicles for wounded veterans – “the things they do are just amazing.”