By Steve Van Der Werff, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery public affairs
Editor’s note: We continue our story about Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Shane Gilley’s early childhood development prior to his military service. Disabled after being involved in a motorcycle accident, Gilley continuously displays his resiliency. He recently represented ‘Team Navy’ at the 2016 Department of Defense Wounded Warrior Games.
When Shane’s parents divorced he moved with his mother and older sister to live with his maternal grandmother in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
He lived in a great neighborhood filled with kids his age and had a dog named White Sox. He and his best friend Billy rode bikes, built forts, and swam in his grandmother’s pool.
“We played war out in the woods. We were always some elite special – forces team patrolling in the woods looking for the enemy,” said Gilley.
Gilley’s mother and grandmother greatly influenced his life.
“One of my grandma’s greatest qualities was her smile. It was a smile that could turn your darkest days bright and you couldn’t help but smile and laugh back. I knew no matter what happened she would take care of us,” Gilley said.
According to Gilley his mother is a rock.
“My mom was a single mother raising two children, but always found a way to make things work.”
After graduating high school, Shane worked long hours as an ambulance driver. When he turned 18 he bought his first motorcycle, much to the dismay of his mother and sister.
“My mom and sister said I was stupid for wanting to ride motorcycles, but they knew I was going to do what I wanted to do,” Gilley said.
When he turned 21, he recalled his numerous conversations with his grandfather, father and uncle proudly boasting about their Navy and Marine Corps service. With that in mind, he decided he wanted to take care of Marines on the battlefield. When he found out Marines are cared for by Navy Medicine personnel he enlisted in the Navy. He subsequently became Fleet Marine Force-qualified and an independent duty corpsman with numerous deployments in harm’s way.
As much as Gilley praises his mother and grandmother for their guidance, wisdom and approach to life, it is his sister who has always been by his side, especially after his life changing accident. Each day during his initial recovery, his sister would tell him to get up and sit outside while she worked in the garden. Her children would ask him to sit at the table and eat with them. It made him feel wanted and not a burden. It made him push to fight harder.
“She and her family took care of me, and at the same time pushed me towards reclaiming my life.”
Time spent with his sister was beneficial because she was always fun to be with and knew how to make him laugh.
“I am a very sarcastic person, but I’m a bench warmer compared to her sarcasm,” he said.
When Gilley enlisted in the Navy he did so without his family knowing of his plans.
“After I graduated boot camp they said it looked like it was going to be a good fit for me.”
Stay tuned to find out more about Gilley’s career in the Navy and how a discussion with a Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor representative led to him getting involved in adaptive sports.