Airman overcomes injury to stay in service

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class David Bernal Del Agua
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
An ACL or MCL tear is one of the last injuries any athlete wants to go through, but once it happens, their life can suddenly change.

It is often seen in the world of sports: a promising young star suffers a knee injury and comes back a different person.

Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Langford, 22nd Security Forces Squadron elite guardsman, sustained a devastating injury while playing in intramural football.

"I went up for the game-winning catch and when I caught the ball I landed the wrong way," said Langford. "My knee locked out and then it went sideways."

He tore his ACL, MCL, LCL, and part of his meniscus in that one bad landing.

"It was bad just trying to get up and move," said Langford. "I ran track in high school, and now I couldn't run for my life if I needed to. I can't stand being vulnerable."

His mission to come back from his injury and rejoin the active force started a month later, immediately after his surgery.

"He's the kind of guy who wants to be up on his feet," said Airman 1st Class Krzysztof Malarz, 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron quality control inspector and a friend of Langford. "He doesn't want pity from people. He just wants to get back to his job."

Resting at home after the surgery didn't last long for Langford as he started physical therapy two days later.

"Every other day I would go to physical therapy and bend my knee more and more," said Langford. "They would bend my knee to the point where it would pop. The scar tissue needed to be ripped so it wouldn't restrict me later."

The mental stress of being limited and helpless took its toll on Langford, but after an interaction with his dog, his outlook changed.

"My dog knew instinctively that I was hurt, and he would tear the house apart," said Langford. "He took my shoe one day and just looked at me knowing that I couldn't stop him. He dared me to catch him, and that pushed me to get better."

His career in the Air Force is another motivator to that drives him to recover.

Langford faces the possibility of being medically discharged from the Air Force after only two years, but the drive to come back has kept him going, said Langford.

After only three months of physical therapy, he is now only four degrees away from having full range of motion in his leg.

Like the careers of many sports' stars who have been injured, Langford's career seemed in peril when his injury occurred. His will and resiliency have helped him salvage his career, and he expects to come back from this injury even stronger than he was before.