John's Journal...

Cheri Arnold – an Air Force Wounded Warrior Who Loves to Hunt and Shoot

Day 2: As an Incomplete Paraplegic Air Force Veteran Cheri Arnold Learns to Have a Life

Editor’s Note:When I recently attended a Wounded Warriors hunt, I met Cheri Arnold from Wood, Arkansas, a Desert Storm veteran. She served as an Air Force Medical Technician and was injured when a gurney malfunctioned and collapsed and later was injured stateside. We often think of wounded warriors as young men, 19- to 25-years old, who have fought in combat and been injured in battles. However, many wounded warriors never have fought in battles, but have put their lives on the line to serve their comrades in arms.

Click for Larer ViewCheri Arnold remembers what happened to her after returning from overseas. “When I returned home from England, I’d gone to the grocery store. When an automatic door malfunctioned, shot straight out and hit me, the incident left me as an incomplete paraplegic. Three vertebrae in my neck were rotated, my right scapula was fractured, and my right hip was rotated off its axis.” Because Arnold was in great physical shape, the incident didn’t knock her to the ground. Once again showing her tenacity and ability to serve others before herself, she went home and cooked dinner, before going to the emergency room.

“I was told I had a fractured scapula, and they sent me home with my arm in a sling,” Arnold remembers. But she continued to have spinal headaches. “I had a lot of strange things going on with my body. I became incontinent in my bowels and my bladder, my hands would fly out from my body and spring-open, and I’d drop things. I couldn’t sleep, and I was miserable. I didn’t know what was happening to me, but I thought perhaps I was losing my mind and going nuts.” However, finally, Arnold found a doctor who listened to her and ordered an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). The MRI revealed that three to five vertebrae in her neck were twisted like a washrag around the spinal cord. An incision was made in the front of her neck, her windpipe was moved out of the way, and titanium plates with six screws were inserted to stabilize her spinal column. The accident with the automatic door occurred on August 3, 1998, but she didn’t have surgery, and her problem wasn’t diagnosed until 2004.

Click for Larger View“I lived in a small town, and I was a dependent wife with my husband still in service,” Arnold explains. “I went to clinics, but my injuries weren’t properly diagnosed. I was given Motrin and sent home. When I finally got the diagnosis that I was a partial paraplegic, I was terrified. ‘This has to be a mistake,’ I told my doctors. ‘I can still walk.’ But the doctor said, ‘No, you’re a partial paraplegic.’” Knowing that Arnold was a nurse, they showed her the symptoms and compared them to those of a paraplegic. She finally accepted the diagnosis. Then the doctor said, “Riding roller coasters or horses and those types of activities are no longer in your future.” “The hardest part of learning I was a partial paraplegic was realizing that I’d have to give-up the career I’d prepared all of my life for, was happy with and enjoyed so much,” Arnold explains. “I’d always dreamed of being a nurse. I had served my country as a nurse, and now I was going to have to give-up that profession.”

But since the accident, Arnold says she’s learned to be happy with the little things in life. “I’m as active as I can be,” Arnold reports “I have a new husband of 4 years - Wayne Arnold. He’s a veterinarian, and I operate a non-profit for cat rescue. I have a daughter, Christina, who’s 17. My son is 23-years old and serves in the Navy. He’s on a submarine, and is on the firing system in it. His dad and I were both in the Air force, and he wanted to serve his country. And when he said he was going to be in the Navy, I said that that was great. So he serves today on the ‘U.S.S. Hartford.’”

Arnold also is on the board of directors with the MidSouth Chapter for Paralyzed Veterans of America. She says, “I’ll always continue to serve veterans.”

Courage - Stories of Hometown HeroesTo read more inspiring stories of courage, click here or go to, and type in the name of the book, “Courage – Stories of Hometown Heroes.” You can download a Kindle app for free, buy the e-book from Amazon and read it on your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

Tomorrow: Cheri Arnold Says You Can Help a Person with Spinal Injuries

Check back each day this week for more about "Cheri Arnold – an Air Force Wounded Warrior Who Loves to Hunt and Shoot "

Day 1: Air Force Medical Technician Cheri Arnold Injures Her Back during Desert Storm
Day 2: As an Incomplete Paraplegic Air Force Veteran Cheri Arnold Learns to Have a Life
Day 3: Cheri Arnold Says You Can Help a Person with Spinal Injuries
Day 4: Cheri Arnold Becomes Empowered
Day 5: Wounded Warrior Cheri Arnold says Enjoy the Outdoors

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Entry 666, Day 2