WATCH: Paralyzed U.S. Army Vet Stands on Fourth of July to Raise American Flag

by Samantha Whidden

Buddy Laddin, a United States Army veteran, was able to raise the American flag on the Fourth of July, despite being paralyzed from the waist down.

In May, Buddy Laddin told ABC affiliate WGNO he was paralyzed after an accident while working in construction. “We [were] on the scaffold 36 feet up in the air, and the scaffolding collapsed. When it collapsed, they said I hit a forklift on the way down,” Laddin said.

The accident caused several broken bones and Buddy’s spinal cord even exploded. Laddin was also in a coma for two weeks. After rehabilitation at the VA in New Orleans, Buddy was able to stand up and perform the American flag presentation.

During the annual Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, Buddy rolled into the ceremony as officers helped him stand. He then helps raise the American flag with NOLA police officers. See the incredible video below:

The veteran was able to raise the American flag thanks to the help of an Indego Therapy Exoskeleton. According to its website, the Indego Therapy exoskeleton enables those who have spinal cord injuries a “new level” of functional independence and upright mobility. 

How Buddy Was Able to Raise the American Flag

Dr. Richard Stone, who is acting under the Secretary of Health for the United States Veterans Health Administration, explains the Indego Therapy exoskeleton is an “extraordinary advancement” in the interface between a human or a patent. “This robot, exoskeleton material, which includes lots of electronics and motors that allow the patient to stand and walk again,” Dr. Stone tells the media outlet.

The Indego Therapy exoskeleton was donated to the VA by SoldierStrong. The charitable organization is on a mission to provide technology, advancements, and educational opportunities to veterans as a way to better their lives and the lives of their families. 

Laddin then recalls his first experience with the exoskeleton. “[The VA saw] me, I had a wheelchair, they [saw] me, and they said, ‘Oh, are you here for rehab?’ And I was like no, I said ‘why, can I do rehab?’ They said sure!” 

Buddy Laddin then reveals that the exoskeleton has helped him to get back to walking again. “You’d be amazed just to look at people in the eye,” he states. “And just talk to people in the eye, it’s just – it’s so much better.”

He explains it’s hard to believe that standing is something to miss, but he really missed it.

Buddy also expresses how grateful he is for the rehab specialists at the VA. “What I did for them, when I was in the military, that they’re doing all of this for me… I appreciate it,” he says. The exoskeleton is worth more than $125,000 and weighs 29 pounds. It is customizable and has a lithium battery to last around six hours.