An Unbroken Spirit
Still part of the Navy family
It was after a snow storm when Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Laurie Wood saw her 9-year-old son outside. She peered out the window to see him scraping snow and ice from the wheel chair ramp leading up to their Norfolk home.
Even as such a young boy, he's already a great man - and the legs of the family.
In April, 2012, as a member of the Norfolk sheriff's office, Wood was injured while going over training scenarios with an Academy class of recruits. She fell more than 20 feet from a roof, breaking her back, but not her spirit. Now as a paraplegic, she is proving every day that legs are a luxury, not a necessity.
Wood joined the Navy out of Peru, New York, at 17, right out of high school in 1995. Her brother was in the Navy and she knew it was something she wanted to do. She had a love of taking photos and when she realized she could be a photographer in the Navy, she was sold.
While stationed at Naval Air Station, Oceana, Virginia, she joined the Auxiliary Security Force as a collateral duty. She didn't know it at the time, but she was falling in love all over again, with law enforcement.
"I decided to transition to the reserves in 2000 so I could do both of the things I loved," said Wood. "I was able to continue to take photos for the Navy, while pursuing a career in law enforcement. I met a Norfolk deputy in the motorcycle community who helped me with the application process."
Wood joined the Norfolk sheriff's office in 2002 and worked in a variety of departments, the last of those being Academy Staff training, where she trained new recruits and seasoned deputies. She finally had it all.
And then the fall.
If I didn't laugh, I'd cry," said Wood. "And I like laughing more. I love to smile, joke around, and I especially love shenanigans. I'm still me, I'm just sitting.
-MC1 Laurie Wood
The next person hit the hardest by Wood's accident was her son, Gavin, or as Wood calls him, Momma's lil hashbrown. Initially very scared by the whole thing, due to the amount of pain Wood was in, he has proven incredibly resilient.
"He was the one who said, 'you're still you, mom. You're just sitting.' He's a pretty smart little nugget," said Wood. "He loved to steal my chair and play around with it. That novelty has worn off a little, but he still tools around with it. He knows how to break it down piece by piece and put it back together, but he prefers to just pick the whole thing up and put it in the car. I still can't believe he can lift it! I try to spoil him whenever possible because he has so much to do around the house. Sweeping, mopping, emptying the dishwasher, bringing EVERYTHING up and down the stairs, and that's just the start of it. He's a great kid."
But that is in no small part due to his great mom.
"With her service record, two mobilizations and being our EP each cycle, she was no doubt on track for selection to Chief," said Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jim Bane. "Laurie didn't just learn the skills needed to become a good leader, she was born with them. She was ready for every challenge. And that hasn't changed. In a way, this paraplegic condition is more like a new job for her. She has taken it on in the same way she did every other challenge she was faced with. She started it with self-doubt, then anxiety, then energy and determination and finally success. This is where she is so great. Guys like me get too bogged down with the first two, self-doubt and anxiety. It's people like Laurie that move us out of that and into applying energy and determination to get to success and she is great at that, wheelchair or no wheelchair. "
"I was angry when I first saw her in the wheel chair," said Cmdr. Scot Cregan, commanding officer for Navy Public Affairs Support Element East, Norfolk. "We got through a tour in Afghanistan and to have something like this happen back home was just unfair. She saw that I was visibly distressed and just smiled and let me know she could still kick my ass! She's always been strong and is a fighter."