Everyday Heroes

Soldier Saves Crew After Losing His Own Leg, Hailed a Hero

When he realized that no one would be able to find them, he did what he had to do to save himself and his crew.

Most people would consider losing their leg as a bad thing. Not Ezra Maes. In fact, he says it's likely the best thing that's ever happened to him - and he's not kidding.

"I'll probably say that for the rest of my life," he told Fox News this week.

While deployed in Poland last year, the 21-year-old Army Specialist was on a weeklong rotation in Slovakia when the parking brake failed in the tank where he was sleeping.

When Maes and the two other crew members woke up, they quickly realized what happened and tried to get the tank to stop moving, but nothing worked.

As the tank progressed down the hill it picked up speed, eventually reaching 90 mph. When the tank finally crashed into an embankment, Maes was thrown across the vehicle and his leg got lodged underneath the gears.

Worried about his crewmates, Maes struggled to free himself until he felt a pop and a rip. At first, he thought he just tore his uniform, but when he looked down he realized that he had self-amputated his leg.

Maes (middle) poses with the two crew members who were with him in the tanker when it crashed: Sgt. Aechere Crump (L) and Pfc. Victor Alamo (R).

Even though Maes was severely injured, he was able to maneuver to the other side of the tank where the medical kit was located. He grabbed a tourniquet and was able to slow the bleeding before helping the other crew members tend to their injuries.

"I almost fainted on my way out to help the crew," Maes recalled.

While the cellphones of the other crew members were ruined, Maes was able to use his to call for help.

When the rescuers arrived, Maes (likely in shock) joked with them when they found his missing limb.

"Hey, bring that back, I want it!" he said before being rushed to a local hospital and then airlifted to a larger facility in Germany.

Since returning to the states, Maes has been getting treatment at the Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion in Houston, TX. He has been fitted for a prosthetic limb that he will be able to "clip-in and go," he said.

After some extensive physical therapy, Maes has been doing yoga, kayaking and working with service dogs. He says he'd like to work with other people in his situation and help motivate them to stay positive.

"Your outlook can change everything. It's 100 percent perspective," he said. "I try and help as many people as possible who are in worse situations."

If you would like to help disabled veterans get the care and resources they need, you can make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project or the Gary Sinise Foundation .

(Source: images Brooke Army Medical Center Facebook )

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