Road to recovery: People along the way
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Nearly a year later, I can tell you that not much has changed except for my attitude. My hand still hurts and shooting is still difficult, but I look forward to shooting every weekend.
I started these articles with an idea in the back of my head — one I didn't share with anyone. I thought that by the time the third article in the series was written, it would have a Hollywood ending. An ending that would leave everyone happy, inspired and content. You know, a "Rudy" kind of a feeling.
Amanda Fry shooting a Precision Rifle Series event.
In reality, I was the one who ended up inspired.
After my second article, I received a message from fellow USPSA enthusiast Robert "Bob" Compton who asked if he could send me something for a bit of encouragement. Having no idea what this might be, I obliged and gave him my mailing address.
Two days later, a large box showed up at my doorstep. I assumed this might be shooting patches or maybe a T-shirt, until I picked it up and discovered it was substantially heavy. I opened the box and was surprised to see frames with poems, autographed documents and a green hat with "Marshall Football" stitched across it.
Having a true Hollywood story of his own, Compton was a part of the 1971 Young Thundering Herd for Marshall University. He witnessed firsthand how a team, a community and an individual can gather the strength and power forward in the aftermath of true tragedy.
On Nov. 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932 crashed, killing all 75 people on the flight — including 37 players and nine coaches from the Marshall football team, who were on their way home after a game against East Carolina. The incident remains one of the deadliest disasters in sports history.
Among the contents of the box was an autographed CD and DVD of "We Are Marshall" and a copy of an encouraging letter to the team from the White House after such devastation. But most importantly, there was a handwritten letter from Mr. Compton to me.
"Should the sun shine too brightly on the range during a match, a special hat has been included. While it holds no superpowers, it can make you feel more like a true son (or daughter) of Marshall," he wrote.
The contents of the care package from Robert Compton.
I wore the hat at my next USPSA match. And the one after that. And the one after that.
I can tell you that Compton was right — it did not have superpowers. I did not start hitting Alphas on repeat, and my no-shoots did not disappear. I have had bad stages, but fewer than before. I have had great stages, but not as many as I want.
Most importantly, I wouldn't have had those great stages without moving past the bad ones. If anything, that is what the hat reminded me to do — put the bad stages behind you because you need to thunder forward.
I now take any opportunity to shoot at a competition, and my fears and doubts do not let me shy away from them. I have continuously attended USPSA matches, tried a couple of three-gun matches, shot in a Precision Rifle Series (PRS) competition and a Sporting Clays charity match.
Amanda Fry shooting a Precision Rifle Series event.
I changed weapons platforms in USPSA and began shooting pistol caliber carbine (PCC) and found that the platform is much easier on my hand over a pistol. With PCC, I am able to bear most of the weight and recoil with my arms and shoulder instead of using my grip strength in my left hand. This has been my biggest win, as far as finding an equipment solution for my injury.
Continuously trying new things and meeting new people helps you grow. I have now shot off a moving wooden horse, a rocking "boat" and a simulated rooftop. The best practice is going out to a match surrounded by these types of new scenarios and people who are passionate about what they do. What I have found is that even though I have made mistakes, been the rookie and finished last in a match, I have continued to get better because of the people around me.
Amanda Fry shooting PCC from a "rocking horse" stage prop.
At a recent USPSA match, I was shooting PCC and was randomly assigned to Mike Pannone's squad. Pannone teaches classes for Comprehensive Technical and Tactical Solutions (CTT Solutions) and is a Master Class Production shooter. He is former military and law enforcement, and we bonded over this immediately.
Pannone taught me about the importance of planning out your stage as he walked me through shadowing his movements and counting his rounds (which I still forget to do). I am always quick to take advice and learn, so I followed suit.
What I loved learning the most from Pannone was his story — he is a Marine combat veteran and has a glass right eye from his combat time. When he learned my story, he invited me to the "-1" Club along with others he has fought alongside. In a way that is hard to explain, it was such an honor.
I botched the match completely, but it didn't matter after everything was said and done. Pannone learned to shoot without an eye, and me without the use of most of a hand. Everywhere I turn in the shooting community, another person's remarkable story inspires me to continue to improve.
Amanda Fry posing with Mike Pannone for the "-1" club.
My injury ended my law enforcement career, but where one door closes another opens. I was fortunate to be selected to appear on the CBS television show "Hunted" as a law enforcement cast member. When I tried sporting clays for the first time, I had been invited to be on the "Celebrity" team with other cast members from "Hunted," including retired U.S. Marshal Buck Smith, and "fugitive" winners Lee Wilson and Hilmar Skagfield.
I traveled to Savannah, Georgia, and was introduced to Anne Bonne, a woman who coordinates multiple charity shoots and found shooting nearly 10 years ago when she was 57 years old. Pioneering forward, she is one of only five women who are members of her gun club.
Now, she's a part of the Lowcountry Annie Oakleys group for women where she encourages women to fight through their fears and shoot for a good cause. Bonne has raised over $500,000 for charities to date, and her perseverance and passion for the sport is palpable.
I overheard Bonne talking to a guest at the charity dinner after the match about me. She said, "Don't you think she is just incredible even coming here?" I remember thinking it was funny because I thought the same thing about her.
Amanda Fry joined by Anne Bonne and her "Hunted" co-stars Buck Smith, Lee Wilson and Hilmar Skagfield.
Shooting had been a passion of mine that I thought would have to fall to the wayside after my injury. No one would have blamed me. People would have even understood. I had this overwhelming sense of failure and loss before I went out shooting for the first time post-injury — I was prepped with excuses, arguments and all of the reasons in the world as to why I shouldn't be there.
I thought these articles would be about my journey to becoming a competition shooter again. I thought I would be able to tell the story about the first shots when I realized I was becoming competitive again or the match where I won High Lady or won my division.
I was so wrong.
Amanda Fry testing firing a PCC for the first time.
This journey has been about the people I have met along the way who constantly encourage me and inspired me to continue. Some of those people have been pro shooters, such as Rob Leatham, who took the time to assess my injury and the way it would affect my grip at my first match. Other shooters who have suffered injuries, such as Mike Pannone, Donnie Tisdale and Mike Gardner, who overcame the loss of an eye, hand injuries and debilitating back pain to become the shooters they are today.
I've been inspired by match coordinators, such as USPSA match director Steve Leach offering help after a botched stage, and Anne Bonne paving the way for women shooters in the future and raising money for charity. Even shooters I have never personally met, such as Robert Compton, extended my family in blue to include my brothers in Marshall Green.
My sincerest thank you to these individuals who most likely do not realize the impact they have had on my shooting journey.
But most importantly, I would like to thank my husband and fellow shooting writer, Joshua Fry. If not for him, this journey would have ended before it began. He has gone above and beyond to be with me at every match, worked hours and hours on my equipment to make it better for my situation, and has been there through both the physical and emotional turmoil this road has brought.
The shooting community is wide and broad — and amazing! I encourage you to become a part of it.
Amanda Fry competing in PCC matches.
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