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Nov 4, 2019 2:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Former Green Beret To Speak At Southampton Village Veterans Day Parade Monday

Kevin Flike, a Green Beret who was shot in Afghanistan in 2011, will speak during the Southampton Village Veterans Day Memorial on Monday. COURTESY KEVIN FLIKE
Nov 5, 2019 1:59 PM

When Kevin Flike, 35, was a kid growing up in Stillwater, New York, he had dreams and aspirations of becoming a Green Beret, the U.S. Army special forces squadron that operates under the motto “De Opresso Liber,” or: “To Free the Oppressed.”

After his dream became a reality in 2009, he completed four tours of duty. On his fourth tour, Mr. Flike, who had achieved the rank of staff sergeant, was shot in the lower abdomen, damaging his femoral nerve. As a result, Mr. Flike went through six surgeries, collected over 40 inches of scars and fought through thousands of hours of physical therapy.

One of the main things that helped Mr. Flike push through the dark times, he said, was having the understanding that “things are bigger than yourself.”

“I could have easily been upset at the situation, but I would always remind myself the reason I was hurt was because I was trying to fulfill the ‘De Oppresso Liber’ mission and help other people,” he said. “My upbringing and time at Catholic School taught me to put other people and their needs above my own. This is how I have always tried to approach life. And for the rest of my life, I want to be helping other people.“

On Monday, Mr. Flike will be the guest speaker during the Veterans Day memorial service in Southampton Village at Lake Agawam Park. He became close friends in college with former Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley’s son, Zac Epley, and agreed to tell his story as part of the village’s annual Veterans Day observance. Mr. Epley, who is the Seafield Center CEO, said Mr. Flike will also be speaking to some of the patients at his recovery center when he visits.

Like Southampton Village, Stillwater is a small community where just about everybody knows everybody, and that was something Mr. Flike liked about his old stomping grounds.

Many people who were vested in the community volunteered with youth sports and provided mentorship to young kids like Mr. Flike at the time, which helped shape who they became later in life.

Mr. Flike attended La Salle Institute, an all-boys, Catholic military high school in Troy, New York, where he said he learned how to love God, how to love his country and that there are things in life that were bigger than himself.

“That’s where my desire to serve really blossomed,” he said.

After graduating from La Salle, Mr. Flike attended Union College in Schenectady, where he played linebacker for the school’s Division 3 football team, and met his friend Zac Epley.

In 2006, Mr. Flike graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and double minor in Asian studies and Mandarin and Chinese.

Within a year, Mr. Flike joined the Army with every intent of becoming a member of the special forces team, and in 2009, his training paid off.

As a Green Beret, he said, soldiers work on 12-man teams who go around the world and work with the military and militias. “It’s like the Peace Corps with guns,” Mr. Flike said. “You’re eating with them, living in the culture, getting to know the languages — the customs. This is exactly what I wanted to do with my life.”

He said the guy to the left and the guy to the right were not going to be Americans, but instead would be locals who the unit had been training, which he said he found appealing also.

Each team basically consists of a captain, team leader, officer, two weapons sergeants in charge of weaponry, two communications sergeants in charge of communications, two medics and two engineers responsible for getting logistics and managing explosives. Mr. Flike was an engineer.

In his role, he did a tour in the Philippines, one in Thailand and two in Afghanistan.

“My second tour in Afghanistan was supposed to be 11 months, but seven months in, I got wounded and had to come home,” he said.

On September 25, 2011 Mr. Flike’s team was working in Faryab Province in northwestern Afghanistan doing a valley clearing operation — where the squad gets dropped off at one end of the valley by helicopter and goes through the valley speaking to people in villages, looking for weapons caches and collecting intelligence.

One-out-of-five of those three-day operations wound up in a firefight, he said, and this particular operation felt out of the norm.

“As soon as the sun crested over the mountains … an hour into the mission, we started taking heavy fire,” Mr. Flike said. “We ended up having bombs dropped in the location where we were taking fire from.”

Ten hours later, the squad was on the roof of a building and needed to take out a compound, but a wide-open field was in their way. One soldier volunteered to take the compound down, and Mr. Flike and another soldier exposed their location on top of a roof to draw fire away from the soldier going to the compound — it worked.

But as Mr. Flike and his crew were figuring out how to move forward and down a hill, things took a turn for the worse.

“I got to the front of the building and kind of jumped out from the corner for a second,” he said. “All of a sudden, it felt like I got hit in the stomach with a sledge hammer.”

Mr. Flike was shot in the lower abdomen, but the femoral nerve was damaged, causing pain at first, then paralyzing his left leg.

Mr. Flike said he thought it was the end of his life, and he was offered his last rights before a mask came down on his face and he woke up in Germany.

What followed was a long recovery with numerous surgeries, over 40 inches of scars and countless hours in physical therapy.

Green Berets who had been wounded before him helped Mr. Flike through the ordeal, as did charities like the Green Beret Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Operation Heal Our Patriots, his friends and family, and more than anyone, he said, his wife Kim Flike.

“Even after alcohol abuse and pain killer addiction, she never gave up on me because she thought my best days were yet to come,” he said. “She even staged an intervention, which helped get my life back on track.”

Today, Mr. Flike lives in Weymouth, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Green Beret Foundation, and speaks quite a bit on behalf of veteran causes.

He also provides one-on-one mentoring to veterans who are transitioning out of the military.

He and his wife have two daughters, Lilah, 6, and Everly, 3.

Getting shot, Mr. Flike said, was the best thing to ever happen to him — because of the many life lessons he learned and can share to help inspire others.

Mr. Flike will be speaking after the Veterans Day Parade in Southampton Village on Monday.

“To me an experience is worth nothing unless you share it, so I am incredibly excited to be able to speak in Southampton on Veterans Day,” he said. “This is an opportunity to honor Veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.”

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Nov 10, 19 8:42 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By banned (191), Hampton Bays on Nov 10, 19 11:25 AM
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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 10, 19 9:32 AM
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By even fIow (60), Westhampton Beach on Nov 10, 19 11:46 AM
God bless you and thank you for your service.
By mtk4ever (9), montauk on Nov 11, 19 7:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you to the Veterans. God Bless.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Nov 11, 19 7:33 AM
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