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“The Spirit of the American Soldier”

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man hands prosthetic leg to vet

Tristan Wyatt (left), VA San Diego Chief of Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Service, talks to Veteran John Dunn.

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Soldier’s Worst Day Leads to a Rewarding Career Helping Other Veterans

It is so fitting that the song that will be sung so many times on Veterans Day ends with “…and the home of the brave.”

Here is just one story of a brave Veteran who has come through a lot and is now dedicating himself to helping other Veterans.

Tristan Wyatt served in the Army, fought and was wounded in combat, joined the VA and has risen to be the Chief of Prosthetic and Sensory Aids for the VA San Diego Healthcare System — all by the age of 31.

Wyatt enlisted in the army after 9/11 in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington. He was part of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment involved in operations in the Sunni Triangle spearhead after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

During an early morning combat operation, Wyatt and his squad were ambushed by insurgents. While fighting his way out of the situation, he and two other service members lost a leg.

 Always maintain honor and discipline. 

He describes his emotions after his injury. “The most difficult part was not accepting the injury itself, but accepting the fact that I would have to live my life differently. At that point in my life, I was completely in love with the military, the travel and the lifestyle. When the injury occurred, it was a violent and messy way to separate me from a profession that was incredibly meaningful to me.”

Wyatt spent over a year recovering and rehabilitating from his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Tristan then went to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Veteran Information Technology Program. After two years in the Technical Career Field program, he was named chief of prosthetics and sensory aid service for VA San Diego Healthcare System. His current duties include directing his department strategically, managing people, budget and resources.

The VA Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) has become a world leader in prosthetics and rehabilitation through an integrated delivery system designed to provide prostheses, sensory aids, assistive aids and repairs to disabled Veterans to help treat their medical conditions.

Tristan defines his mission at the San Diego VA Medical Center as, “promoting Veteran independence.” He would like to move higher in the VA in terms of leadership. “It is a great organization with a great mission and I would like to have the biggest positive impact possible.”

A native of Parker, Colorado and a fan of the Steelers and the Chargers, Tristan enjoys four-wheeling in his Jeep, camping and target shooting.

When asked what encouragement he would give other Veterans, Wyatt says, “Always maintain honor and discipline.”

Wyatt will spend time on Veterans Day remembering his personal heroes. “Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon. They paid the ultimate price so others could live. I believe their actions embody the spirit of the American soldier.”

On America’s approach to Veterans Day, he adds, “I think Americans do a fantastic job of honoring our Veterans. I am proud of everyone for that.”

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