John Gregory Richardson
Several shots from an AK47 assault rifle announced the beginning of mayhem on an otherwise quiet desert afternoon just outside a building filled with U.S. personnel in the Middle East. Navy Lt. Commander John Gregory Richardson, at his desk when he heard gunfire, rushed unarmed toward the turmoil, ordering bystanders to take cover and taking control of the assailant, who had just been wounded by military police. No one else was injured.
Richardson received a commendation medal from the U.S. Navy for “his quick and selfless response to an evolving terrorist act” on that day in 2002.
During his 30 years of active and reserve military service, Richardson received other honors as he worked internationally, often in security/protective detail for top Navy personnel. “My job kept me in great shape,” said Richardson. “I was 200 pounds of muscle.”
It was just before his last tour of duty in 2010 while completing three weeks of combat training that he felt a “pop” in his back. The pain became progressively worse; by the end of his assignment year in East Africa, he had severe pain and numbness. His physical condition forced him to retire from the military.
“I was not able to stand or sit for long periods of time, and the pain degraded my ability to concentrate,” said Richardson. “It’s hard to focus when you feel as if someone is sticking a wire in your back or shocking you with electricity.”
In 2012, Richardson found Dr. Virgil Balint in National Spine & Pain Centers McLean, Virginia office. He was successfully treated with radiofrequency neurotomy, which uses heat to damage specific nerves and temporarily interferes with their ability to transmit pain signals, and also with prolotherapy, which stimulates body’s natural ability to repair the tissues.
“Dr. Balint provided me with substantial pain relief,” said Richardson. “I still may need back surgery in the future, but I am living well today.”
Richardson says that Dr. Balint gave him something more important than medical treatment. “It’s tough to transition from being a highly successful, physically capable person who protected others to the point where you require so much medical care,” said Richardson. “Dr. Balint generously gave me the compassion and understanding that I needed as a returning military veteran.”
Also important, Richardson says, was the office staff that helped document his medical condition so he could navigate government bureaucracy and obtain veteran insurance benefits.
“I think Dr. Balint provides a good model for how medical institutions need to deal with veterans,” said Richardson. “We (veterans) are coping with the loss of physical and mental prowess. We need people who know how to help us keep going, despite the loss.”
Today, Richardson is directing the high energy and selfless attitude that won him so many accolades in the military toward activities that help returning veterans adjust to life stateside. It’s been suggested that he become a motivational speaker or run for public office.
“I’ve been involved in enough near-fatal incidents to realize that I must be here for a reason,” said Richardson. “I look forward to finding out just what that reason might be.”