Boone Physical Therapists Help Local Veteran Achieve His Dream Of Going On An Honor Flight

Boone Physical Therapists Help Local Veteran Achieve His Dream Of Going On An Honor Flight

By: Madison Burke

John Conley had dreamed of going on an Honor Flight for over a year. The trip would take him and other veterans to Washington D.C. to visit memorials built to honor their services.  So, he was ecstatic early this year when he found out he was selected by the Central Missouri Honor Flight branch to make the trip.

“It was like a dream come true,” John says.

But preparations for the April 20 trip were halted when John’s doctor informed him that aneurysms in his foot required an amputation right away.

“All I could think about what the Honor Flight, when I heard the news and how badly I still wanted to go,” John says.

John and his wife Shelby talked to John’s doctors, who told him it was possible for him to recover enough to go on the trip after his surgery, but it would take a lot of work in physical therapy. John was determined and, after the procedure on March 25, he immediately got to work.

“He was so weak when he first started therapy. I was honestly worried he wouldn’t be strong enough to go on the trip. But he always had such a great attitude and fought so hard,” Boone Hospital occupational therapist David White says.

Physical therapist Meghann Figg said she was amazed at how quickly John improved. She said she believes part of the reason was because he had such a great goal to work towards.

“We always encourage our patients to have a goal. It really makes a huge difference in therapy,” Meghann says.

Both Meghann and David also say Shelby played a huge role in his recovery.

“Shelby was always right there next to him encouraging him to do one more rep or one more exercise. She would say, ‘Do one more for me, John’ and he would,”’ Meghann says.

“We see this a lot. A great support system can mean the world to a patient’s recovery.  Shelby really played a huge role in John getting better,” David says.

A couple days before the flight, John’s doctors and therapists gave him the OK to go. John couldn’t believe his dream was coming true.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who worked so hard to help me,” John says.

April 20 finally came and John was taken from mid-Missouri to Saint Louis and then flown to Washington, D.C. for a 24-hour trip.

“I didn’t sleep a wink the entire trip. I was having too much fun,” John says. 

John saw all sorts of monuments and museums, but says his favorite was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“It was just so special. Seeing that kind of thing is good for your heart and good for your soul,” John says.

The veterans on the trip had doctors and nurses available to care for them, but John said he didn’t need any medical help: “I felt great the whole time and everything about the trip was just wonderful.”

John is now back at the home at the Lake of the Ozarks he shares with Shelby. He says he will always treasure the memories from his trip.