Sgt. 1st Class Tim Brumit heard parents' cries for help amid the choppy surf, heavy winds and driving rain. He spotted a young girl struggling in the water and without a second thought dove headfirst into the waves.

The heroic gesture was a mistake. With the waves at a low point, the water proved too shallow and Brumit's head-first impact in the sand was enough to break the soldier's neck.

Brumit, an engineer with 7th Special Forces Group, was admitted in the hospital following the July 25 accident, paralyzed from the neck down.

Days later he was showing signs of improvement, giving his family hope.

"We're not built to lay down and die," said Brumit's dad, Randy, a retired Army chief warrant officer 3 who also served in Special Forces. "When he showed up to the hospital, he was totally paralyzed from the neck down, and expected to remain that way for the rest of his life. That's what we were told."

Instead, Brumit has regained use of his arms — with help of emergency surgery — and he's amazed physical therapists, his father said.

Sgt. 1st Class Tim Brumit with his father Randy Brumit, while serving in Iraq together in 2007.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Randy Brumit

The accident occurred at 4:15 p.m. at a beach community near Brumit's post at Eglin Air Force Base. After hearing the cries for help, Brumit dove off a pontoon boat, which was anchored near a sand bar. Brumit later told media he misjudged the waves passing under the vessel. After his injury, a fellow soldier helped moved Brumit's body onto a surfboard, where the soldier floated in the rain while waiting for help, Randy Brumit said.

The girl, located 400-500 meters away, was rescued by another boat.

The soldier, who served eight years with 1st Batallion, 75th Ranger Regiment and has earned his Special Forces Tab, has received a lot of support from the Army, his father said. His unit has opened a safety investigation to determine what happened and try to prevent future accidents like this one from occurring.

Randy Brumit said the family motto is "What the mind can conceive, the body can achieve." His son, a father of two and Bronze Star recipient, hasn't lost that mentality.

"That's how we special operations guys look at it. He challenged the physical therapist, 'what's your record? I'll beat it,'" his father said, adding that his son told his surgeon from his bed: "I'm going to walk back in and shake your hand and thank you for what you've done with me."

Sgt. 1st Class Tim Brumit with Dr. Colby Maher, the neurosurgeon who performed surgery on the soldier.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Randy Brumit

Aggressive surgeon for aggressive recovery

As much as they credit their family's willpower and spiritual faith, Randy Brumit said he and his son offer a ton of credit to his doctor, Dr. Colby Maher of Baptist Hospital in Pensacola.

"He told us he's an aggressive neurosurgeon," Randy Brumit said. "He told us 'some might wait weeks for the first surgery; I do mine within hours.' I'm thankful for that."

The soldier has had two surgeries and he's now conducting physical therapy. He will move from Florida to a bed at Atlanta Spine Center early next week.

Brumit, a father of two young children, has had a number of visitors provide encouragement. One was Fed Barona, who five years ago also hurt himself in a diving accident near Pensacola. He had advice for the soldier.

"He said 'whatever you do: when they say no, you say yes. When they say five, you do ten. They told me that I'd be complete quadriplegic. I didn't believe it. Don't believe him,'" Randy Brumit said of Barona, who now can walk.

Retired Staff Sgt. Gabriel Spencer, who the Facebook page said was paralyzed from the neck down by an explosion in Iraq, also is shown standing and posing with Brumit in the hospital.

Sgt. 1st Class Tim Brumit has shown progress since the July 25 accident.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Randy Brumit

Randy Brumit has set up a Facebook page providing updates on his son and there is a Go Fund Me Site under Brumit's name that has raised nearly $42,000 to help with medical care.

Randy Brumit knows that walking is "very far away" for his son at this point. He acknowledged that as his Brumit's father, he must balance a gung-ho attitude and "parental nurturing side." His three-year-old grandson might not have a full grasp on the situation, but his 5-year-old granddaughter knows she shouldn’t be "crying in front of daddy to make him sad," said Randy Brumit, who works as a consultant for the military and deployed to Iraq in the same area as his son in 2007,

Tim Brumit can feel pressure below the waist, his father said. If you squeeze the leg, he can tell you which leg, but it's still just a faint numbness of limbs "barely waking." And yet, he said even that much has surprised professionals.

"Physical therapists, the look in their faces, it's like 'you shouldn't be feeling this.' They're not saying that, but looking at their faces and talking to them after," Randy said. "They're saying 'this should not be happening at this time in the process with the type of injury he's had."

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