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Remarkable return

Denver -- Nearly two years after a car accident that left him bound to a wheelchair, retired Col. Dennis Gries returned to the Air Reserve Personnel Center where he had served as Air National Guard adviser to the commander. 

Now a federal civilian employee and chief of data management for the National Guard Bureau at the Air Force Personnel Center, Colonel Gries returned to ARPC on temporary duty orders April 4 and 5, to assist incoming Guard adviser, Lt. Col. Donald Johnson. 

Colonel Gries said the last two years have not been easy. "It was hard enough trying to do the normal rehab with just the leg," he said as he tapped his prosthetic left leg. "But because of my arm and finger injuries I had trouble just standing and walking." 

In May 2005, Colonel Gries and his wife were involved in a head-on collision while vacationing in Texas. He suffered severe fractures to all of his limbs, broke numerous fingers and eventually had to have his left leg amputated. 

He said he credits his dramatic improvement to the fulltime rehabilitation he received while on terminal leave. "The three months of rehab, that was the big turnaround in my recovery," he said. 

In December 2006, Colonel Gries retired from the Air Force at a ceremony at ARPC. On Jan. 8, he started his current job at AFPC. 

"It was a life altering experience," he said of the accident. "It changes your outlook and makes you more thankful for every day."