Sometimes a terrible event can bring forward surprisingly positive changes. This is exactly what happened to Major Mike McCave, who used to be a Green Beret in the U.S. Army. His job had him dive out of moving airplanes almost every day – a dream job for many skydiving enthusiasts. But then the dream turned into a nightmare, when one day, the unthinkable happened.
Major McCave participated in a routine training skydive, when his reserve parachute malfunctioned and deployed itself along with the main parachute. The two canopies draped themselves around each other and Major McCave hit the ground at 119 mph.
His childhood friend, Joe Agustin witnessed the terrifying accident.”I didn’t know if that was even remotely survivable, and if it was survivable, what his quality of life was going to be like from that point on.”
McCave himself confessed that he wasn’t sure he could survive the accident. “It all happened so fast. The last thing I remember before I hit the ground, I just said, “God, please save my life.”
The Major’s life was saved, but he had many months of recovery ahead of him. He couldn’t walk for eight whole months after the accident. His doctors kept giving him more and more medications; at one point, he had to take nineteen different types of drugs each day. Even though he was immensely grateful he survived the accident, his new circumstances did take their toll on his personality.
McCave has always been a man of service and faith. His family and friends watched helplessly as he turned into an invalid, his mind clouded by medication and anger. One day, his five-year-old daughter came to visit him in the hospital. McCave couldn’t remember why he acted the way he did, but he’s still ashamed to admit that he yelled at his daughter for no apparent reason.
McCave’s father, who was present at the incident, looked his son in the eye and said: “This is not the man I raised. This is not you.” The look of terror in his daughter’s eyes along with his father’s words made McCave realize that he had to do something to prevent himself from turning into a different person.
“That was a real point in time where I was like, ‘This is not me. I want to be off these medications. I want help, but this is not working,'” he said. He started doing research, looking for an alternative therapy to replace the drugs with. And one day, he stumbled across equine therapy.
McCave has spent his childhood on a farm, among horses. He’s always loved these majestic creatures and he knew at once that this was the way forward for him. He gave up the drugs and enrolled in equine therapy.
It proved to be the right decision. With the help of equine therapy, McCave healed from his accident, both physically and emotionally. In fact, it went so well that he wanted to share his experience with others. Together with Joe Agustin, McCave founded Warrior’s Heart Ranch in January 2017.
Their program focuses on providing equine therapy, leadership training, and team-building exercises to warriors. In addition, they even train service dogs for warriors.
But who is a warrior? A member of the armed forces? McCave disagrees: “People like my wife who stayed by side the entire time while I was going through all my trauma, that was a warrior to me too.” This means the new Health Ranch is open to anybody in need.
Recently, Warrior’s Health Ranch has started raising money for a nine-year-old boy, Reece, who suffers from a condition called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which forced him into a wheelchair last fall. He used to own two dogs, but they perished in a house-fire last year. Ever since then, heartbroken, Reece has been asking for a dog, somebody to guide him through his illness.
McCave is determined to fulfill Reece’s wish. Once enough money is raised, Warrior’s Health Ranch is going to train a service dog for Reece. “He is the perfect definition for what a warrior is,” Joe Agustin said. He and McCave can’t wait to see Reece’s face when he meets his new best friend.
Mike McCave’s story is a wonderful example of how a man can turn his fate around and stand up from a seemingly impossible situation, making the most of it. Major McCave can continue to dedicate his life to the service of others, only from a different position.