Combat Veteran and Amputee to speak at Dennis Zilinski Memorial Fund Gala
There is so much that still needs to be done to ensure our active military members and veterans, both with us and those called home to God, receive the aid they and their families deserve for their heroic efforts to provide us with the freedoms we have today.
David Cross is one such Army veteran who served ten years and three deployments, one in Iraq and two in Afghanistan where he was wounded in the line of duty after being struck by a 1,000 pound I.E.D.
"I didn't know I was actually injured (at first), I was just trying to make sure my guys were good and see what was going on," Cross said. "It took me a good five minutes to come to my senses and realize what happened."
He was medevacked out of the area for treatment.
"I wasn't able to feel my leg and I had a pretty bad concussion and I couldn't see that well because my face hit a screen and the chemicals that are in the screen got on my face," Cross said. "I also took multiple shrapnel to my right leg."
He was told initially that the leg injury would heal over time but the shrapnel had done more damage than doctors initially thought.
"There was some massive nerve damage that happened to my leg and as time went on it gradually got worse and I got neuropathy. I couldn't feel my toes in the beginning and then part of my foot and then my whole foot and it kept on slowing creeping up the leg," Cross said. "I was also in 24/7 pain."
For a while he said he was taking 17 different pills a day for pain management but grew tired of taking all the medicine.
So after seven years of pain management and different medical treatments and trials, he elected for an amputation but, there was a problem with the VA.
“When I asked the VA to do it, they said they will not because I'm too young and my leg too viable," Cross said. "So, instead of considering my well-being, they denied my amputation."
In May of 2016, he had the amputation thanks to the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund.
"The day I had my surgery, thanks to the Zilinski Memorial Fund, all my pain went away. I can also sleep again, because I am no longer in pain," Cross said. “The Zilinski Memorial Fund was recommended to me by Christy Gardner, double leg amputee and veteran, who plays on the U.S. Sled Hockey Team. Like me, she was denied by the VA, but couldn’t go on with so much pain. The Zilinski Memorial Fund covered her amputations, as they did the amputation for my right leg."
The 34-year old married father of three says the amputation has allowed him to have a life again, which includes playing sled hockey for the Buffalo Sabres Sled Hockey Team.
David Cross will be the keynote speaker at the 11th Annual “A Toast to Dennis – A Night of Remembrance” Gala at Eagle Oaks Country Club in Farmingdale, on Friday.
The Gala supports veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other life altering injuries and their families.
Funds raised will also support deployed servicemen and servicewomen throughout the year with supplies.
As he prepares his speech, his message for other soldiers and veterans in his situation is simple.
"You are not alone, there are options out there," Cross said. "Something I've learned is that there's a lot of different avenues, approaches and organizations to reach out for help. I know it's usually hard because we're stubborn and we don't want to say 'hey, I need help' but don't be afraid to do that and you'll find help."
Cross will be attending Friday's gala with his wife, Kate, and his service dog, Bear.
“We are grateful to have David as our keynote this year. His story and that of other veterans in need of amputations have touched us deeply. Our organization is committed to helping as many servicemen and servicewomen as possible. We hope others will hear his story and support our mission,” Marion Zilinski, Co-Founder and Board Member of the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund, said.
The gala is organized by the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund, an organization created and founded in 2006 to honor Lt. Zilinski who was killed in action in Iraq by a roadside bomb.
The 23-year old Lt. Zilinski was a Middletown resident, a Christian Brothers Academy alumnus, a distinguished West Point graduate, a member of the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division.
This year, five volunteers from the Jersey Shore will also be honored at the gala: Dean and MaryAnn Janeway of Mantoloking, Retired Navy Lt. William and Deborah Rustico, of Middletown and Madison Huber of Holmdel.
The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund sponsors service dogs for wounded soldiers suffering from PTSD and TBI and to date, they've sponsored more than 87 dogs at a sponsorship of $15,000 per service dog.
The Memorial Fund also provides scholarships to students at Lt. Zilinski’s alma mater, Christian Brothers Academy and Trinity Hall High School.
They do so to invest in the future of high school students who embody the leadership qualities and community spirit of Lt. Zilinski.
To help the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund raise awareness about all the good they do, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Donations may be sent to: Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 124, Adelphia, NJ 07710.
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