At the age of 26, I was interviewing him in Hawaii, while working as a freelance reporter on my way to Vietnam. I thought it was important to bring attention to the war, which was no longer on the front pages. Americans were no longer coming back in body bags. However, our dollars were still being used to fight that war. We were paying for the Vietnamese to kill each other. Someone had to tell that story.

The Green Beret had a flashback while we were talking. He thought I was a Vietcong and was going to kill him. He tried to strangle me and left me for dead. I don’t remember my attacker, I don’t remember the attack and I don’t remember stumbling out of my Waikiki hotel room, which is initially what saved my life. But I’m very stubborn, so I survived. When I woke up, I had lost a week.

As a result of that encounter, which I refer to as an accident (we are both victims of the war), I am in a wheelchair with limited use of my arms and legs. My voice is barely audible. The diagnosis is Traumatic Parkinson’s.

I have not let my disabilities stop me. I have reconstructed my life and now I am a passionate sailor, who races on the international stage. This past summer I raced in Scotland where I competed in a World Championship event. I have taught sailing at Shake-A-Leg Miami where I continue to sail almost every day. It is an accessible community-sailing center that celebrates the healing power of water. I wrote in an article once, becoming disabled is like falling into an astronomer's black hole. It can be an intensely dark, an intensely constricted, a hopeless place. Sailing expands your universe once again, brings you out of the dark and back up into the air, the sunlight, back to joy and a life worth living. TL;DR

Fire away any questions, or just fire away.

Edit: My motivation behind this IAMA is to show that no matter what people face, whatever circumstance, with a positive attitude, anything is possible. You can overcome even the highest barriers. I am not trying to slam my assailant, or attack any person serving in our military. I just wanted to tell my story. My hope is that it will help others.

Edit2: 9:38 PM (EST) I am calling it a night. I will try to address as many comments as I can over the weekend. Both my typist Jon Van Natter and I are exhausted. Thank you so much for all of your comments! Reddit, you made my day! Thanks for the front page! :)

Edit3: Again, thank you so much for the comments. Reddit is a fantastic community! If you want to see me sailing, you can click here! In addition, you can go to to learn more about our amazing sailing organization for disabled children and adults! Remember, if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything. -Kerry Gruson

Comments: 714 • Responses: 35  • Date: 

[deleted]337 karma

Thanks for sharing!

Did you pursue any legal action against him? Did you ever speak to him again? How was it?

Also, your attitude is very motivating!

kerrygruson501 karma

I received 10,000 dollars from the state of Hawaii as a victim of a violent crime. That's it. I couldn't sue him because he was working for the government. The government is immune from such suits. I was never angry with him, as I said, we were both victims of the war. He was sent to a mental institution for three months. I often thought of contacting him, but I never have. Thank you for that compliment. It was wonderful and makes my struggles worth while.

[deleted]285 karma

I find it astounding that you couldn't sue this man.

kerrygruson435 karma

So do I. I didn't want to sue him, I wanted to sue the government that sent him to fight an unjust war in our names.

[deleted]121 karma

Oh, thanks for clarifying. You could have sued him, but you wanted to sue the government. I thought he was like James Bond, with a license to kill or something like that.

kerrygruson225 karma

I could not sue him, so he sort of was like James Bond. Obviously not as cool and debonair. But he was not above the law. He was sent to a mental institution because he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

merpes191 karma

Maybe you should contact him ... he probably feels an extraordinary amount of guilt about what happened. It might be beneficial to him to know that, one, you don't blame him, and two, that you haven't let your injuries keep you from living life.

kerrygruson215 karma

I've often thought of doing that. Maybe this might reach him. I hope it does.

[deleted]32 karma

I understand that you may not have wanted to sue the individual personally, and that you would rather have wanted to sue the government (which is understandably problematic), but please do not misinform us by saying that you "couldn't sue him because he was working for the government." I don't know who if anyone informed you so, but that statement is false on its face.

kerrygruson40 karma

I talked to lawyers, and they advised me against pursuing this matter because I could not win this case. Anyone can bring a suit, but being successful is an entirely different matter.

b1ackcat29 karma

Did you get any type of compensation from NY times for this? You lost your ability to live a 'normal' life due to something you were doing for them. I would think they'd be making you live as comfortable as possible for the rest of your life.

kerrygruson144 karma

I was not working for them at the time. I was a freelance reporter. I started working for the Times in 77'. They hired me despite my disabilities, because my brain remain intact.

lepton30 karma

Do you have any advice for people with disabilities on how they can go about procuring employment, specifically with organizations that do things that matter?

kerrygruson50 karma

I would research your market and market your expertise. Being disabled can actually work for you. Make your disability work for you, because you will have insight that no one else will have. What works for you, such as work place accessibility, will make it easier for everyone. I hope this helps again!

kerrygruson238 karma

I'm going sailing with some friends, I'll be back later to answer more questions.

appel176 karma

"Short documentary on Shake-A-Leg Miami's Kerry Gruson"

(Thank you for your story. Hope you don't mind me posting this here.)

kerrygruson97 karma

Not at all. Thank you!

WoYao149 karma

Verification, please.

Edit: That you are Kerry Gruson.

kerrygruson391 karma

thebigbabar99 karma

I know that you mentioned that you can't remember the attack. However, do you have any clues (e.g., your notes) as to what initiated it. Are you assuming that it was a flashback, or do you have proof? How do you know that he just didn't like you?

kerrygruson134 karma

My mother, Flora Lewis, a famous foreign correspondent went to Hawaii to be with me. She investigated the incident and talked to the priest to whom he confessed that he had, "Killed a girl." And to the mother of his girlfriend, whom he had also attacked. I don't remember anything. My mind is a total blank. I've even tried hypnosis and that didn't work.

stephen_abootman34 karma

this was going to be my line of questioning... since you cannot remember, do you still have your notes in your possession? i was wondering the types of questions you were asking him that would set him off or he was on the verge of a mental breakdown regardless and you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

my friend's father was a huey door gunner in vietnam. sadly, he can't even ask his father about his experiences as that chapter of his life still effects him to this day.

kerrygruson120 karma

I don't have any notes of the interview. it was clearly a wrong time wrong place situation. I don't even remember the questions I had planned to ask him long before the actual interview.

PTSD is a very real problem, which we are seeing again with soldiers returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have not learned our lesson!

freemarket2758 karma

Any hope that medical advances will enable you to regain use of your limbs?

kerrygruson89 karma

Scientists are working on stem cell transplants into the brain. This is of course experimental, and quite frankly too risky. Maybe in the future...

hotpiercedguy55 karma

I don't get it. The blood was cut off from your brain so you can't use your legs now?

When did the accident occur? You say at 26 but you dont say if you are now 27 or 50 etc.

kerrygruson137 karma

Yes, the blood was cut off from my brain. I don't know for how long. The accident was in 1974, so I've spent more than half my life in a wheelchair. The diagnosis is Traumatic Parkinson's, and what was affected is a part of the brain that controls motor function. Someone is helping me with the typing now, because I type slowly.

Eddie_The_Brewer66 karma

The story is 100% legit. I'm not saying who it is though.

Edit - oh, if I'd looked up top.... (waves to kerry).

I'd like to say that yours is an inspirational story, and that you have encouraged many disabled people to take part in sports and other activities.

Keep up the good work.

kerrygruson135 karma

I wrote an article for the New York Times. You can find it here. It took 9 months to write. It was hard labor, but perhaps the best thing I've written.

CornOnTheMob31 karma

I'd just like to say, thank you, I'm glad you've been able to share this all with us.

kerrygruson61 karma

Thank for taking the time to read this. It means a lot. Reddit has made my day!

muckraker6248 karma

Wow. I'm a 25-year-old journalist at a small midwestern weekly, and I'm pretty floored by this story. Sure, I've had people threaten litigation against me or my publication for some of my articles, but I've never felt I had to worry about actual physical violence. Granted, this is a bit different, but all the same it's not one of those things you think of going into an interview.

That said, any career advice for a young media professional? While I enjoy my newspaper job, I'm also considering other positions in the areas of communication and media management. The main problem I keep running into is that it's hard to get my foot in the door. The job market is tough, and it's difficult to compete against a field of candidates who often have years more experience than me.

kerrygruson73 karma

Now a days there are so many different outlets of media. If you want to make a living as a journalist you have to think creatively, out of the box. In my day traditional journalism was very much a possibility. Today however, it's a dinosaur. To get yourself into the door, I would volunteer your services to the community and organizations, like non-profits. Get somes exposure to the outside world in order to figure out where you belong. Figure out what excites you. Travel, take notes, and keep a diary/journal, write...write...write... I don't want to send you on a wild goose chase but the only way to improve is to keep at it. Best of luck to you. I hope this helps.

lets_discuss_ur_butt42 karma

How do you fap?

kerrygruson246 karma

That's an interesting question because sex and disability is a huge issue, which many people are leery of approaching.

My answer to you right now is: Use your imagination!

I_Want_In_Too28 karma

I want to thank you for sharing this quote:

Sailing expands your universe once again, brings you out of the dark and back up into the air, the sunlight, back to joy and a life worth living.

That is good writing and is inspirational. It makes the unknown dangers of life a little less intimidating.

kerrygruson40 karma

You brought light into my day! The unknown doesn't have to be intimidating. It can be a big challenge and very exciting!

Edit: Life is a great adventure!!

lissadelsol22 karma

This is more logistics than anything, but how do you sail if you have limited use of your arms and legs? How limited is limited? I've seen the puff-suck sails, is that what you use?

Thanks for doing this! Your story is really interesting and you seem like a very inspiring person.

kerrygruson61 karma

Very Good Question:

Check out this website: You can see me sailing on the TackMaster3, which is on my boat Blew BaYOU (A triple pun).

The boat has not been modified at all. I have a drop in adaptive sailing chair that allows me to swing from side to side. So I can always sail from the high side. This gives me good visibility. I also have a very innovative overhead tiller, so I can swing underneath it. You can go to the site to see photos of it. My dear friend Jorg Pawlik designed everything with my input.

mr_boomtastic5 karma

Was it the tall ship races you were doing? They took over for a week and it was fantastic! My older brother was on one of the ships.

kerrygruson11 karma

I participated in the tall ship race from Miami to South Carolina. The fleet continued up the coast of North America. It was a glorious experience. Everything with disabled and able-bodied passengers alike from peeling potatoes to cleaning the toilets, to raising the sails. I was even hoisted up the mast in my chair!

AtheistAgnostic18 karma

I read the article you posted. The bill seemed ridiculous, but the program seemed to have results...

In my opinion the government, if not cover medical costs, should cover medical costs in certain conditions... I don't think you should have had to pay for that.

kerrygruson42 karma

Being a disabled person, I receive medicare, but that doesn't even begin to cover my medical expenses that have amassed over the years.

alonedesu18 karma

Are you of Vietnamese or asian decent?

kerrygruson95 karma

I'm Irish and English. My dad's family relocated from Latvia to Ireland and then Canada. My grandmother was born in England, and had to get to the US on the Titanic. She postponed her departure by a week. Glad she did haha.

cliff_diver15 karma


What was the process/experience of waking up and realizing and coping with the situation. How exactly did you come out of your dark place? How long did that take?

How are you able to support yourself financially?

You mentioned limited use of your limbs. Just how "limited" is it and are you able to sail conventionally?

It seems like you are interested in activism. Are there any issues that you are passionate about or participate in. Do you pay attention to the state of war veterans?

Can you tell me your favorite ice cream flavor?

Thank you for answering.

kerrygruson46 karma

Great Questions!

Favorite flavor, mmmm Chocolate Chip Mint and Mocha Almond.

I was awake but not aware of my surroundings until a week later when I read the menu and saw the date, April 5th and the name of the hospital on the linen. I find that anger is too draining and counterproductive. I've always been an optimist. I like to see the best in people and situations. Then of course there is sailing, which has changed my life.

I worked for the New York Times for 27 years after my injury, and I get disability and medicare.

I can walk for a short distance with assistance, because I have no balance. I still have control of my hands. Both arms and legs are very stiff. My condition requires me to make an active decision to move my body, where as most people can do that automatically.

I am very passionate about Shake-A-Leg Miami. I am on the board of Directors.

causeiwanna15 karma

Are you/have you ever been married? Kids?

kerrygruson36 karma

Yes I was married, after the "accident." Being married to a disabled person is not easy and our marriage dissolved after 4 years. No kids.

Rajoy_ahoy13 karma

as a money less college student how can I get into sailing?

kerrygruson18 karma

Find a sailing organization and volunteer! It's the best way to start.

edit: a community sailing organization. Go to the US-Sailing website to find out more information.

WaywardWayfarer9 karma

How did you get into sailing after your incident?

kerrygruson25 karma

I chanced upon Shake-A-Leg Miami and sailing. Quite accidentally. While rolling along Coconut Grove's water front in 1991, Shake-A-Leg Miami at the time had two boats. I took my first sailing lesson. Once I got on the helm, I was hooked. It gave me back, a sense of freedom and powerfulness. Sailing is the perfect sport because it can be done by anybody, at any level, and with any abilities.

ron_leflore7 karma

Did the Green Beret face criminal proceedings (or court martial)?

I know you attribute his actions to flashback/post traumatic stress, but there are plenty of soldiers in jail now for less violent crimes that could be attributed to the same flashbacks.

kerrygruson12 karma

As I said before, he was found mentally incompetent. I don't think there was a court martial.

iatelassie6 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA and being an inspiration on a number--well, more like a countless number--of different levels. What's your take on journalism today? Is it any more sensationalized than the 70s? Were there Olbermanns and O'reillys then, but just didn't get millions of viewers or readers? If you could change one thing about mainstream journalism, what would it be?

kerrygruson18 karma

There has always been sensational journalists. It's just now, with the internet, it is more widely read and widely available. With regards to journalism today, everybody who has a cellphone with a camera is a reporter. So information as well as misinformation spreads quickly like wildfire. Hope this helps!

If I change anything, I would want people to read more and listen to NPR, the BBC, or the CBC.

Lazyoverachiever3 karma


kerrygruson13 karma

Social Media is where it's at. New York Times is still the best traditional source of information. I do keep in contact with some staff, but I don't recognize most of the bylines anymore.

Neveronlyadream3 karma

Do you feel like, with the training military personnel receive, this was bound to happen sooner or later?

Also, do you believe that the government has gotten any better at treating soldiers with PTSD since the incident, or does their treatment of battle-scarred soldiers seem the same?

kerrygruson8 karma

I am by no means an expert on this subject matter, but I know that many of our troops return seriously troubled. It is the governments job to take care of those that serve us. Has it done a great job thus far?

please-use-NSFW3 karma

can you use your arms freely ?

kerrygruson13 karma

I have very restricted motion. And I smashed my left elbow, when I fell in China. So that doesn't help either.

Nessie13 karma

What were you doing in China, and can we assume that the China was also smashed?

kerrygruson25 karma

I was visiting friends. And yes it was smashed but it is rising haha!

StarVixen2 karma

I like your positive attitude, but geez- how could you not be absolutely pissed off?

Whether you answer me or not- that's cool. All my respect to you, and sorry that that happened. I wish you well, and all the best.

kerrygruson18 karma

Of course I was angry. I was angry at myself for having gotten into the situation, angry at the world for the atrocities it had committed. Why do bad things happen to good people? I don't know. The anger dissolved, and what I was left with was a feeling that we all have to get on with our lives. So I did.

[deleted]2 karma

Slightly different topic for my question: As someone who was (is?) in the Journalism industry for so long, how do you feel about the shift, especially in youth, from 1) the physical medium of newspapers to the Internet and 2) mainstream authorities in Journalism to more independent or community-driven sources?

kerrygruson2 karma

I am very excited about both shifts. Activity among young people means they are building life long habits of involvement with the world around them. A journalist can't ask for anything more. You have to maintain quality control though. There will always be room for professional journalists or aspiring journalists.