Veteran recovers from serious injury, continues work onboard NAS Pensacola

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — In 1985, a young Kyle Cozad graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and started his journey to becoming a Naval Aviator.

“I never was a guy who was going to be in the Navy for 35 years but I really fell in love with the ability to lead other people, make a difference in their lives, and the concept of service,” Retired Rear Admiral Kyle Cozad said.

WKRG News 5 talked to Adm. Cozad inside the National Naval Aviation Musum in Pensacola where he serves as President and CEO of the museum’s foundation.

“This is a special place,” Cozad said. “I mean I get chills every morning when I walk in the door.”

Cozad needs a walker to get around. He wasn’t injured in combat like you might think. It was a freak accident almost three years ago.

“It came as a big shock,” he said.

He slipped and fell in his kitchen breaking two bones in his vertebrae leaving him with severe spinal cord trauma.

“I joke… I’ve got two titanium rods and enough screws in my body to probably open up a small hardware store,” he said.

Despite being in intensive care for over a week and physical therapy for five weeks, Cozad has maintained a positive attitude.

“My motto has been don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t do,” Cozad said. “It’s important for you to remain positive, to work hard, to have strength and be tough and show people what you can do.”

His wife, Amy, of more than 35 years became his full-time caregiver. He also had support from his three children including his son who’s followed in his footsteps joining the Navy as an aviator.

“He was here, saw me in the intensive care unit, and he left,” Cozad said. “So I made a promise to myself very early in the process that when he gets home I’m going to walk to see him and I used my walker to go across the flight line and what was probably 300 yards felt like 300 miles but it was a promise I made to myself and my kids.”

When the accident happened, Cozad was serving as the commander of the Naval Education and Training Command at Naval Air Station Pensacola. He’s thankful to the Navy for letting him continue in his role which is rare.

“You’d be hard pressed to find another active duty officer who was bound to a wheelchair or a walker,” he said.

Cozad is a man who’s overcome obstacles throughout life with a burning passion to serve his country which continues even into retirement.

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