Former Marine, quadriplegic wants others to buckle up

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C.(July 9, 2004) — Attaining the rank of sergeant in the Marine Corps is no easy task. It takes dedication and perseverance. For Gilbert Queen, a former Marine sergeant, it was a short-lived acheivment in a life that, since 1992, has been filled with insurmountable odds.

Adapting and overcoming odds is what the Marine Corps is all about, and Queen is no stranger to that. That is why Gunnery Sgt. Lance Dobine, S-4 officer for H&SBn., suggested that Queen speak with the Marines of H&SBn. during a safety brief at the Depot Theater June 30.

In 1992, Queen was involved in a near fatal car crash that left him paralyzed from the neck down. After the accident, he was declared clinically dead three times, but was resuscitated each time.

On his first night in the hospital, a nurse told him his prognosis. She said that he had broken his neck and that he would never walk again. Initially Queen was in Denial, seeing himself running the next physical fitness test or leading a run.

She told him that he was paralyzed, and that is why he could not move. He then began to cry and looked for some sympathy from the nurse.

Queen said that she looked at him and asked, “What are you crying for?”
In turn, Queen gave a sobering response, “I’m paralyzed … why didn’t I just die.”
“That was my first response,” he said. “Then the nurse looked at me and said, ‘are you crazy, what do you mean why didn’t you die. We are still trying to figure out what you are doing alive. If you can survive this night, then you can survive anything.'”

“That ripped right through me like lightning,” he said. “That was the first and last time I ever went there. I could have stayed there in that wheel chair and that would have been that, but I used that motivation and said, ‘you’re right, I’m alive.'”

His unexplained survival is what pushed him over the edge and allowed him to do things that a quadriplegic was not supposed to do, like walking. He constantly leaves people in awe of his accomplishments.

“Anybody overcoming odds of that nature is phenomenal,” said Lain Smith, golf course manager and PGA professional, who has known Queen and his enthusiasm for more than six years. “It proves that if you have the heart and desire you can accomplish anything.”

He thanks God constantly for that, said Dobine.

“We have been having a lot of problems with safety belt use around the Marine Corps and his injuries were the result of him not wearing a safety belt,” said Dobine. “He had a personal testimony about it that could help out other Marines, so I thought it was good for him to come and speak.

It is just like he said in the safety brief, he was just like every other Marine,” continued Dobine. “Sometimes he was half asleep, sometimes he wasn’t really paying attention and sometimes he said it wouldn’t really happen to him and look where he is at now.”
Queen’s reality can serve as a wake up call to all Marines who seem to be asleep when it comes to making the right decision.

“When people actually see that was me and this is reality, it puts it in perspective,” said Queen. “It makes people really catch it and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, this is a Marine.'”
What Queen has been doing since the accident, has been to direct people to God.

Through visiting area jail ministries and juvenile detention centers he tries to give people in need a new perspective. He also coaches chess at local area schools, believing that the strategy of the game can make people think about what they are doing prior to actually doing it.

“My motivation is humanity and compassion,” he said. “I didn’t look at life like I look at it now. I played hard, and I worked hard, and everything was about me. I did my job and helped out to make sure I did what I had to, to get the job done. After that it was about me, but now it is about helping somebody else, and I see a lot of young people making a lot of bad decisions. That is why I sacrifice my time now.”

Giving of his time has led Queen to influence a lot of people in the community. All the time he contributes has made an impact on more then just the people that he speaks with. It has also affected his friends.

“He is a never-give-up type of person,” said Dobine, a long time friend. “When you can come back from being a quadriplegic and actually stand up and tell your story, of course you can be an inspiration to a lot of folks.”

During the safety brief, that influence was focused on the Marine Corps and his perspective as a former Marine.

“I was walking for the Marine Corps and I walked with those dress blues and those stripes and did the best that I could,” said Queen. “Now, I’m still walking but I am walking for God. It is the same thing, but from another perspective. It’s a spiritual thing.”

Queen was promoted to sergeant in 1992 and claims to be a, “permanent sergeant more than 12 years later.”

“My Marine Corps career got stopped at sergeant and I can’t go any further than that,” he said. “It is amazing to see all of the buddies who are E-7’s and above. Now, I live through their careers.”

Queen said that when he sees his friends moving on with their careers it motivates him in his life to know that they are out there doing the right things.

Motivation is what has kept this former Marine going since the night of the accident.

“For coming from where he was to being where he is now, I think that all of us should consider Queen’s life as a testimony for our lives, because he is a good man,” said Dobine.

Submitted by: MCRD Parris Island
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Lance Cpl. Brian Kester

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