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Love proves stronger than adversity

Retired Staff Sgt. Ryan Pinney adjusts the hand gears on his recumbent bike before competing in the 2014 U.S. Army Warrior Trials cycling event June 15, 2014, in West Point, N.Y. (Photo /Benny Ontiveros)

Retired Staff Sgt. Ryan Pinney adjusts the hand gears on his recumbent bike before competing in the 2014 U.S. Army Warrior Trials cycling event June 15, 2014, in West Point, N.Y. (Photo /Benny Ontiveros)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFNS) -- Seven months before their wedding date, most brides are picking out invitations, booking musicians and florists and sending out save-the-date cards, however, Meagan Pinney was driving as fast as possible from Pheonix, Arizona, to Las Vegas to see her then-fiance, Ryan, in the hospital after a serious bicycle accident.

"I got the phone call while I was at work and it was the hospital," Meagan said. "The very first thing I said was, 'are you joking?' and they said, 'no, ma'am, we don't joke about these things.' I was so thrown off by it."

Because they weren't married yet, the hospital staff had to make some concessions to allow Meagan to see Pinney.

"The entire time he was asking for me," she said. "The hospital staff was magic almost. I went into protective mama bear mode almost - what do we have to do; what's the next step; who's going to tell his family; where do we have to go. It was terrifying."

Meagan made her mind up to be strong for Pinney, despite his condition and the uncertainty of the future.

"I didn't know what his situation was," she said. "I didn't know what his injury level was; I just knew something really serious had happened and he was in the emergency room. I just wanted him to know that I was there to support him."

Meagan said she knew she needed to be strong for everyone, including Pinney's family.

"She talked about being the strength for the family," said retired Staff Sgt. Ryan Pinney. "Even more so than that, she was the strength for me, and made me realize she was the strength in our relationship the entire time."

The couple was married Feb. 17, 2013, and Pinney entered into the Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Program a few months after that. Meagan has been by his side through all the training camps and competitions, and is Pinney's primary caregiver.

"(The injury) definitely changed our relationship," Meagan said. "I kind of stepped up to the plate and realized that in order for things to get done and for him to have strength, I had to be the rock. I feel like I've always been a really strong, independent woman, but it definitely tested my strength, my ability and my agility in life. It tested both of our prides because we had to ask for help through other family members."

Pinney looked at his wife in adoration, and talked about the changes he had to accept in this new "normal" way of life.

"I felt like, before my injury, I was supposed to be the man," he said. "She was supposed to be the one relying on me. After the injury, being a man was more than just her leaning on me. It was realizing that she was just as strong as me, if not stronger; she was just as big of a rock, if not bigger, and I was able to lean on her - and that was okay."

Meagan said without the help and support of Pinney's unit in Las Vegas, or their friends, families and neighbors, the road to recovery would have been much more difficult. There are daily challenges for the couple but they take them in stride.

"He has to ask for help more," she said. "Sometimes I have to tell him it's okay to say no because you can't do everything, and you have to listen to your body. He has big goals in the future that, as his wife and primary care giver, I sometimes have to keep him in check."

Pinney laughed, "She's my reality check, but I can't do it without her, without her support. That's the biggest thing, it's her support that allows me to train to work, to be out here with everybody."

The overwhelming support the Pinney's have received from several charities has given them reasons to push forward, even when times are tough.

"People look at us as we go down the street that don't know everything we've been blessed with," Meagan said. "I feel like they might feel pity, but we're so blessed. There's no room for that pity and sadness."

Pinney recently won the gold medal for the 2014 Warrior Games mixed handcycle competition in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He attributes all of his success to his wife.

"She's the first," he said. "When I think of things that have helped me get better faster, it's her. She's been there every step of the way - through rehab, through the first adaptive sports camp, through the first time I got on a handcycle, through the first time we went hiking again, the first time we walked our dogs again. She's been the first in the new life, post injury. There are a lot of things that have been a part of the recovery process, but she's the first. When you ask what is it that's helped me get better, it's her - it's Megan Pinney."

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