Living and Not Existing — A Veteran’s Miraculous Recovery

Greg-McKnight-7.JPG Veteran Greg McKnight is a very accomplished musician. He plays 13 instruments, graduated from the Berklee College of Music, and played with Kool and the Gang, Jethro Tull, New Edition, Ian Anderson, Shirley Caesar, the bands for Tony Evans and for Kenneth Copeland, and many others.

Greg’s time in the military started in 1976 when he was drafted for the Vietnam War when he was a teenager, and he served in the U.S. Army in the 101st Airborne Division (“Screaming Eagles”).

“I loved the service. I loved the discipline and the structure, I got to travel, and the experience turned me into a man, made me grow up fast,” says Greg. “For the 101st Airborne, I worked in demolition. I was like MacGyver!”

After being in Vietnam, Greg was stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and he served in the Army for a total of six years.

“I always have been a person who wants to give back, and after my discharge, I worked for the VA hospital in East Orange New Jersey and in Riviera Beach, Florida. At both hospitals, I worked in the EMS department, and as side work, I recorded music and played gigs with a variety of incredible musicians.”

Greg took a medical retirement from the VA in February 2020, and then moved to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. “My wife Maureen and I love where we live. We’re one block from the beach, we have very friendly neighbors, and my 10 grandkids love the parks in our neighborhood.”

Greg-McKnight-3.JPG Enjoying his retirement, one early evening in June 2021, Greg experienced a devastating accident. He and his wife Maureen were walking to dinner on Ocean Boulevard, and a moving truck drove onto the sidewalk. Greg pushed his wife out of the way, and he took the full brunt of the hit from the truck. His injuries were catastrophic.

“I had so many injuries that I can’t name them all — 12 broken ribs, a broken back, a punctured lung, a broken scapula. While in Broward Health, I was in an induced coma for 30 days,” says Greg.

“Life can change in a flash. In the two years since this accident, I have had to learn to walk and talk again — I just started walking again in July 2022.”

During this time, Greg had exhausted his savings because so much money was going to medical bills. He had gone to the VA in Sunrise to see his doctor, and an employee at the VA told him about the many programs at United Way of Broward County’s MISSION UNITED.

“My wife had to do the speaking with MISSION UNITED because my trachea was removed from my throat at the time — and an incredible person at MISSION UNITED returned our call within 24 hours. We immediately bonded. I have been getting help from MISSION UNITED for over two years, and this case manager always has been extremely professional, caring, patient, and tenacious.”

IMG_7386%20Large.pngDuring his miraculous recovery, Greg got news that the area in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea where he lives no longer is allowing long-term rentals. He filed for his pension, but delays for accessing the funds occurred because the after-effects from COVID had caused a backlog for many Veterans, including Greg.

Through its housing programs, MISSION UNITED is now helping Greg and his wife find an affordable place to live, including assistance with setting up deposits, utilities, and application fees.

“After all the turmoil that started in 2021, I feel like I have a new life. My wife and I are now living and not existing. I am driving again. At one point, I couldn’t talk, and now I have my speech back. I am playing my saxophone and flute, which has helped with my recovery, and I am playing gigs again. I love giving back to MISSION UNITED, Wounded Warriors, nursing homes, anywhere I can help — and recently I played my sax for Veterans at a nursing home.”

“In my work at the VA Hospital, I met a lot of Veterans, and they often have physical and mental issues, have experienced neglect and abuse, and have embarrassment and resignation about their conditions.”

IMG_7887%20Large.png“My message to Veterans is: No matter what is your need is, MISSION UNITED is full of loving people that will give you hope and help. My wife and I are amazed by all the programs available to Veterans at MISSION UNITED. By the grace of God, MISSION UNITED is here for all of us Veterans.”