HomeNewsArticle Display

Goodfellow veteran relives experience for Airmen

Brian Kolfage Jr. speaks to Senior Master Sgt. Annette Whitenack July 2 at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. Mr. Kolfage spoke about his experience on Sept. 11, 2004, when a rocket attack left him without legs and a right arm. Sergeant Whitenack was one of the first medical responders on scene after he was injured. Mr. Kolfage is a former 17th Security Forces Squadron defender and now a retired senior airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robert D. Martinez)

Brian Kolfage Jr. speaks to Senior Master Sgt. Annette Whitenack July 2 at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. Mr. Kolfage spoke about his experience on Sept. 11, 2004, when a rocket attack left him without legs and a right arm. Sergeant Whitenack was one of the first medical responders on scene after he was injured. Mr. Kolfage is a former 17th Security Forces Squadron defender and now a retired senior airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robert D. Martinez)

Brian Kolfage Jr. speaks to an audience that included 17th Security Forces Squadron defenders and ROTC cadets July 2 at Goofellow Air Force Base, Texas. He spoke about a rocket attack in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2004, which left him without legs and a right arm. Mr. Kolfage is a former 17th Security Forces Squadron defender and now a retired senior airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robert D. Martinez)

Brian Kolfage Jr. speaks to an audience that included 17th Security Forces Squadron defenders and ROTC cadets July 2 at Goofellow Air Force Base, Texas. He spoke about a rocket attack in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2004, which left him without legs and a right arm. Mr. Kolfage is a former 17th Security Forces Squadron defender and now a retired senior airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robert D. Martinez)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Five years ago a rocket attack in Iraq left a former 17th Security Forces Squadron defender without legs and a right arm.

Brian Kolfage Jr., a retired senior airman, shared his story in Airman magazine, numerous newspapers, online magazines, patriotic Web sites and medical magazines. He was also in a video produced by Air Force media called "Alive Day" praising him for his courage and determination. He shared his story with 17th SFS Airmen and Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets July 2 here.

Capt. Brian Copper, the 17th SFS operations officer, introduced Mr. Kolfage as a hero and said he invited Mr. Kolfage to speak to some of the Airmen and cadets because Mr. Kolfage inspired him.

"I was inspired by Brian's struggles, determination and his sense of humor and positive outlook," Captain Copper said.

With brown hair and sunglasses propped on top of his head, Mr. Kolfage looks like any other 20-something in college. He began his presentation by telling the audience that he's not a public speaker, but his presence and delivery proved otherwise.

A slideshow accompanied his story, filled with images from his deployments and eventually a slide that warned about the upcoming graphic photos from the day he was injured.

"If you can't stomach graphic images of blood, now is the time to turn away," Mr. Kolfage said.

He described exactly what happened to him on Sept. 11, 2004; some from what he recalled and most from what medical personnel told him.

His injuries were documented, and the images showed the massive injuries he suffered once he arrived to the Balad Combat Support Hospital at Joint Balad Air Base, Iraq. He said one of the few moments he does remember was when he wanted to see how bad his injuries were.

"I tried to look at my legs. I sat up a little bit and they just put their hands in front of my eyes so I wouldn't see," he said.

Another moment he said he remembered seeing what he called his angels; angels who would not let him have water. These angels were nurses who were assisting him and denied him water in preparation for surgery.

Senior Master Sgt. Annette Whitenack, the 17th Medical Group superintendent, was one of the first medical responders to come to his aid that day and sat in the audience. She was the OB/GYN NCO in charge at the hospital and was also on the emergency medical response team.

"Most of the medical experts did not think he would live," she said. "He looked so grey. When I dream about the incident, I always see him as grey. I came here for closure and wanted to see how he was doing now."

Near the end of the presentation, images of Mr. Kolfage's recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., were shown demonstrating his determination to use his prosthetics.

The presentation wrapped up with the video "Alive Day," showing him snowboarding, water skiing and goofing around. No one with his level of amputation has ever been able to walk independently. He is still the most severely wounded Airman to survive any war.

Mr. Kolfage showed incredible strength and courage through the years, and said he continues to have a positive attitude about all things he decides to do.

Today, he uses his prosthetic legs full time helping to advance prosthetic technology amputees.

He drives a customized sports-utility vehicle equipped to drive with his hands because, as he said, "I'd drive it all crazy with these legs."

Mr. Kolfage is working toward an architectural degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.

After the presentation, Mr. Kolfage stayed around to shake hands and talk with people. One of those who stayed longer was Sergeant Whitenack. The two sat alone, and she said she told him things he did not know about the day he was injured. She told him she wanted to see for herself how well he was doing with the injuries and life in general.

"He's doing great considering all he's had to endure," Sergeant Whitenack said, "but most of all, he's a happy person who's decided he wanted to have a great life regardless of all his challenges."

She was, coincidently, one of those angels he begged for water.

Seeing him again almost five years later will also change her dreams, she said.

"Now, when I dream about Brian and the incident that almost killed him, I won't see him as grey," she said, "Now I will see him with color."

Engage

Twitter
RT @HQUSAFEAFAF: #Airmen load up a C-130J Super Hercules before heading to #Bulgaria for Thracian Fall 2020. The @usairforce trains with B…
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: Airmen and Soldiers from the @CTNationalGuard delivered 21,000 cases of water from @fema to towns throughout the state in…
Twitter
RT @usairforce: “I’m a dental tech who became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force...be dreamers – dream big.” - @CSMAF_Official #ReadyAF
Twitter
Join us for the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force transition ceremony LIVE from @Andrews_JBA TOMORROW at 9:30AM ED… https://t.co/ok6km7nFoS
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Teammates, Let me start with 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒌 𝒚𝒐𝒖. https://t.co/xU6U3QuZV7
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Engaging through listening sessions, senior leaders are hearing directly from #Airmen and #SpaceProfessionals on diversi…
Twitter
RT @PACAF: JUST IN: Three #B2 Spirits from @Whiteman_AFB deployed to Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia in support of #BTF missions. @IND
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: The #Airmen at @Creech_AFB make a global impact 24/7. The RPAs they operate provide vital intelligence and strike capabi…
Twitter
"I'm confident that our Air Force can continue to be the most dominant and respected Air Force in the world." -… https://t.co/PZQzLUGBxz
Twitter
Tactical Air Control Party Airmen assigned to @INGuardsman participate in close air support training. TACPs provide… https://t.co/BcyiAmfFmV
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: The @140Wg became the first ANG unit to successfully execute an agile combat employment exercise while at @Buckley_AFB. T…
Twitter
“I’m a dental tech who became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force...be dreamers – dream big.” - @CSMAF_Officialhttps://t.co/AKSjyQNq4s
Twitter
A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 317th Airlift Wing flies during a Joint Forcible Entry exercise at Dyess… https://t.co/t3VXu0ZYWj
Twitter
Pentagon staff applaud @cmsaf_official as he exits the Pentagon for the last time as Chief Master Sgt. of the Air… https://t.co/c9RXsc3lAO
Twitter
Join us for the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force transition ceremony LIVE from @Andrews_JBA on Aug 14 at 9:30AM E… https://t.co/GfPIHkx0zn
Twitter
An @EdwardsAFB B-52H Stratofortress completed a captive-carry flight test of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Respon… https://t.co/HxxgE2In8C
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Just arrived to @NellisAFB to see RED FLAG, the #USAF Weapons School, and more. Because it has the best #Airmen and trai…
Twitter
“It’s no overstatement to say that brilliant ideas combined with trailblazing Airmen makes today’s Air Force the mo… https://t.co/qsDWN2Den5
Twitter
An F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to the 3rd Wing approaches for landing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during R… https://t.co/EMKHnjC6p0
Twitter
A C-130H from the 302nd Airlift Wing, equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System, flies over fires near… https://t.co/9BPVXNFual
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,266,898
Follow Us