Health & Safety

August 16, 2013

Airman loses eye, continues to serve

Tags:
Senior Airman DAVID OWSIANKA
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Delbert Coburn, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron, shoots the ball after getting the rebound during an intramural basketball game against the 56th Contracting Squadron team Aug. 5 at the Luke Air Force Base Bryant Fitness Center. Coburn also continues to play softball after losing his left eye.

Imagine returning home from a deployment without any incidents, but then competing in a sports game and losing an essential body part.

Staff Sgt. Delbert Coburn, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems journeyman, lost his left eye while playing in a softball game in Goodyear four days after returning from his second deployment in October 2010.

“During the play, a fielder tried to throw me out as I slid head first into second base,” Coburn said. “But, there was no one to catch the ball and it hit me in the left eye. I never lost consciousness. I laid there thinking I just got back, and I’m already going to have a black eye.”

After Coburn turned over and regained focus in his right eye, he could see his left eye hanging from its socket. He began to have trouble breathing as he went into shock. The paramedics arrived and administered aid.

Coburn was rushed to Barrows Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix via helicopter, where he had immediate surgery to put his eye back in to try and save it. He had been hit so hard, his eye had exploded. A doctor came in five days later and told Coburn his eye was too ruptured to save and he would never see out of it again. The doctor explained the eye needed to be removed. If left it, it would infect the good eye and Coburn would become totally blind.

“For me, that was a no-brainer,” Coburn said. “I had another surgery to have it taken out.”

Coburn met with two medical boards in December 2010 to prove he could still be an effective member of the U.S. Air Force and perform his job safely and effectively as an electrician. He was deemed worldwide qualified one month after meeting with the medical boards.

“That was the best news I had in months,” he said. “It was important for me because I couldn’t see my career ending like that, and I wanted to make sure I could continue to provide for my children.”

Coburn needed to adapt to performing work duties and extracurricular activities with only one eye.

“Work has changed a lot because I don’t have depth perception and have to focus even more on completing tasks safely,” he said. “I had to relearn how to do everything for sports. In softball, I had to relearn how to hit the ball, how to correctly time the ball while at bat and how to judge the ball when fielding so I could catch it.”

Coburn received a joint expeditionary tasking to deploy with the Army to Afghanistan one year after being cleared to stay in the Air Force.

“Being in Afghanistan was nerve racking because I was always outside the wire,” Coburn said. “Wherever I went I had to take a helicopter to small forward operating bases.”

At one point during the deployment, Coburn needed to go to a training site. To get there, he had to do a patrol walk through a town with an Army unit.

At the time, some of the Afghan troops were turning on the U.S. military, he said.

“I was very nervous being in that area because I couldn’t see out of my left eye,” Coburn said. “I had to rely on my wingman to cover his area. Luckily nothing bad happened.”

Coburn received an Army commendation medal at the end of his tour.

Tech. Sgt. Ricardo Vera, 56th CES electrical section NCO-in-charge, said Coburn was eager to start working and show he could still do what was needed to get the job done.

“It’s inspiring to see how resilient he was to bounce back from an injury like that and continue to successfully complete his job and serve his country,” he said.

Losing his left eye hasn’t kept Coburn from losing sight of his goals as an Airman. He applied to become a military training instructor in January 2013 and was accepted a month later.

“I’ve always wanted to become a training instructor after going through basic, but didn’t want to leave my family at the time,” he said. “I went through Airman Leadership School in February 2008. My instructor superintendant was a former training instructor, and he talked to us about looking at that as an avenue.

“Being an instructor will help me appreciate being an Airman more, and I hope I instill in the recruits what I’ve learned as I train them to become Airmen,” Coburn said.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Courtesy Photo

Luke 1 holds first commander’s call

Courtesy Photo Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, begins his first commander’s call at Luke Air Force Base Monday. Pleus took command of the fighter wing June 20. Brig. Gen Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing com...
 
 

Balance, key to successful AF life

I believe proper balance is the key to a successful life in the Air Force. Over the years I’ve come to realize that it takes a concentrated effort to maintain balance between a professional life as an Air Force member and personal or family life. Both require constant learning, adjustments, development and attention. It’s easy...
 
 

Avoid claustrophobic career

I have heard many times that education is the great equalizer. The Air Force takes in people of all races, cultures and backgrounds and unifies them under simple beliefs and values. The enlisted force structure serves as the common language for force development, and education plays a major role. We all know education creates opportunity,...
 

 
James Hensley

No one flies until flight med gives OK

James Hensley Airman 1st Class Shawn Martinez, 56th Aerospace Medicine Squadron flight medicine technician, checks over the ambulance Aug. 19 with Staff Sgt. Jovanny Reyes, 56th AMDS medical technician, at Luke Air Force Base. ...
 
 

News Briefs August 29, 2014

Gate hours change The South Gate Visitor Registration Center hours have changed. They are 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Effective Tuesday, the North Gate is open inbound and outbound 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Also on Tuesday, the Kachina Gate will open inbound and outbound 6 a.m. to 10...
 
 

THUNDERBOLT OF THE WEEK

Senior Airman Brian Comia 56th Force Support Squadron Services journeyman Hometown: San Lorenzo, California Years in service: Three Family: Wife, Phoebe; daughters, Sophia and Isabella Inspirations: My family Goals: My short-term goal is to make staff sergeant next year Greatest feat: Becoming a U.S. citizen and having the pleasure and honor of serving this country...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin