Don’t Get Run Over By Car Like I Did

Trust me. You won’t enjoy the experience of getting hit by a car (or any motorized vehicle, for that matter).

Terry Mansfield
Apr 27 · 6 min read

NOTE: This was curated by Medium and chosen for further distribution.

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

I had the terrible luck of being involved on the wrong end of a hit-and-run incident. And my life changed dramatically because of it.

The year was 1988, and I was serving in the U.S. Army in Hawaii as a Major. I lived off post in a rented home high up on the hillside of a beautiful area on Oahu called Aiea, which is about 10 miles or so from Honolulu and about 5 miles from where I worked as Executive Officer at the time, of the 30th Signal Battalion. One very nice feature of our house was that we could see Pearl Harbor from our big front window, including the World War II Pearl Harbor Attack Memorial, which looked like a ribbon from a far distance.

Everyone in the Army has to take a PT (physical training) test twice a year. Of course, to be prepared to pass the PT test, you had to train for it just about every day. The test consisted of pushups, situps, and a 2-mile run, on which you had to perform at a certain level to pass. If any of us didn’t prepare properly for the twice-a-year test, we would almost certainly fail it, which would hurt our career prospects.

Thus, every morning at 6:30, I would gather up with the rest of the members of our unit to go through a series of stretching and other warmup exercises before launching into pushups, situps, jumping jacks, etc. for about 30 minutes. After we completed those, we would all go on a group run for about two miles at a pretty fast pace. This was our daily PT routine, and it kept us all in good shape, as we were supposed to be, of course.

Our unit had a policy of rewarding any soldier who scored above 280 points (out of a maximum of 300) on the PT test. I was in great shape in those days and took my physical training preparation work very seriously, especially since I was an officer and needed to lead by example. I had scored the max 300 points on the most recent PT test, so they rewarded me by allowing me to do physical training on my own one day a week.

I loved this because I didn’t have to get up quite as early that day and I could do whatever I wanted to do to substitute for the usual group PT sessions. One of those things I did on my own was a 2-mile run on a course I had mapped out for myself, that started from my house, went down a steep hillside street to a T intersection, turned left and then right, and then continued down to near the bottom of Aiea. That encompassed a mile’s distance. To complete the other mile, I reversed direction and ran back to my house, with the last quarter mile being up the hillside street — an arduous way to finish, for sure

As (bad) luck would have it, on one beautiful, crisp Spring morning, I was doing my 2-mile run on my own, and coming back to my house. I came to one of the T intersections and paused while waiting for a nearby car to come to a complete stop at the stop sign. Once I was sure the car had stopped, I started to continue my running across the intersection in front of the car.

About halfway across the intersection, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I quickly realized, to my horror, that the car was moving forward toward me at a swift rate. All I had time to do was turn sideways and roll myself up onto the hood of the car to avoid a direct hit to my body. That plan worked okay but, alas, my body kept rolling off the hood, and I landed on the ground with a thud on the street next to the car, which made a quick left turn and sped off — a classic hit-and-run case.

Unfortunately for me, when I fell off the car’s hood, my full body weight crushed my right ankle, resulting in a trimalleolar break of the bones on the right, left, and rear of my ankle. With those bones severed, my foot was dangling with nothing to hold it together as I sat on my butt in the street, praying that another car wouldn’t come down the hillside and finish me off. So, as quickly as I could, I scooted on the ground painfully over to the side of the road to get out of further danger.

An ambulance came and took me to Tripler Army Medical Center several miles down the highway. I underwent a 5-hour major operation to put my ankle back together. After getting released from the medical center, I recuperated at home for a couple of months while healing.

I felt bad about neglecting my Executive Officer duties at the Signal Battalion while laid up. So I arranged with my S1 (Administrative Officer), a young First Lieutenant who lived a couple of streets over from me, to bring the contents of my office inbox to me every other day so I could keep working. Once he brought me the pile of stuff from my inbox, I would exchange the newly-received paperwork for all the completed taskings, instructions, assignments, etc. I had written out on each piece of paper that he had previously brought to me.

We repeated this swap-out routine every other weekday for two months. This system worked well enough until I could finally officially return to duty and resume working out of my office at the Battalion. Of course, when I eventually did return, I spent another month or so hobbling around on crutches, but at least things were sort of back to normal.

Or so I thought. It turns out that the damage done to my right ankle would always cause me pain afterward, and severely limit what I could physically do that required me to use my feet and legs. That made passing the 2-mile run portion of the Army PT test incredibly hard and meant that sports activities I liked to do (e.g., tennis, racketball, basketball, softball, etc.) became so difficult that I had to give them up altogether. The only thing left was golf, and I could never make 18 holes without riding most of the way in a golf cart. But it was a lot better than nothing, although walking on any uneven ground on a golf course gives me painful fits.

I managed to muddle along for several more years with my diminished physical capabilities until I wound up on a Joint Duty assignment at the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia in the Spring of 1999. Eventually, when the running got too painful to do regularly, I knew something had to give. I was a Lieutenant Colonel by then and on track to make the rank of full Colonel. But I knew that I could no longer physically lead troops in the field the way I was supposed to and would be a detriment. I couldn’t and wouldn’t allow myself to be in that situation.

So I made the hard decision to retire from the Army and did so in early 2002, moving on from there to another career, this time in the private sector as a Defense Contractor (from which I fully retired a few years ago).

A lot changed for me after that fateful Spring day in Hawaii when I was hit by that car (the Hawaii “5–0” cops never did find the driver, by the way). I know it could have turned out a lot worse, with me being killed or more seriously injured. So, in some sense, I was fortunate.

In any case, I adapted to my new reality and moved on with my life as best I could, which is what we’re supposed to do, right?


Thanks for reading. (Copyright Terry Mansfield. All rights reserved.)

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