David Berling

David Berling receives his Duncan Wildkats T-shirt.

DUNCAN — Students at Duncan High School last week received an important reminder to reach for their dreams.

In the school gym, Duncan High School welcomed Captain David Berling (retired).

Berling, welcomed the students and hoped they would remember his story.

“Adversity affects us all,” he said. “I hope, one day, you'll remember that guy at the gym in Duncan.”

Berling's story begins in 2002, when, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, he joined the U.S. Air Force and began working at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale. After entering training to be a fighter pilot and marrying his wife, Melissa Berling, he described things as “a great time in my life.”

Unfortunately, Berling found himself unable to handle the incredibly arduous forces exerted upon fighter pilots. After returning to Phoenix in 2007, Berling continued his military contracting work, arranging to fly to work in Los Angeles from Phoenix. In April of 2007, Berling was involved in a private plane crash that left him with horrific injuries and a double amputee.

At first, Berling said he was just happy to be alive, but the struggles of adapting to his new life — coupled with a marriage suffering from time apart and other problems — had brought him low.

“I felt like I had failed,” he told the students.

He attributes the turnaround in his life to something greater.

“I believe a higher power gave me a second chance in life,” he said.

A heart-to-heart with his wife and a miraculous return of feeling in his right arm once thought rendered useless by the crash, and Berling was headed on a comeback. He started by personally thanking everyone who had helped him along the way following the accident, from the firefighters to the doctors. Using prosthetics, he began to walk again, returned to flying, and took up his new love, hand cycling.

“I thought, ‘What the heck, I'll give it a try,’” he said.

Now a recognized hand cyclist with an array of awards under his belt, Berling hopes to make the U.S. National Paralympic Team.

For the students of Duncan High School, he left these words: “You're not invincible, but don't let negativity and discouraging comments prevent you from trying. The human spirit is a lot stronger than you think it is.”

Read more about David Berling at http://www.theberlingdream.com.

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