Abingdon Co. Image displays two 2021 Retired Air Force Colonel Laurel “Buff” Burkel

WHAT IT MEANS TO GO ABOVE & BEYOND

Retired Air Force Colonel Laurel “Buff” Burkel survived a helicopter crash and a broken neck to climb the highest mountain in the world. Now she’s looking for what’s next
Abingdon Co. Image displays two 2021 Retired Air Force Colonel Laurel “Buff” Burkel

By Jane Doe

Oct 27, 2021

October 11, 2015

Kabul, Afghanistan

Retired Colonel Laurel “Buff” Burkel joined other coalition personnel for a helicopter flight from the airport in Kabul to NATO headquarters, a short journey by air. As the two-helicopter flight approached the destination, the pilots saw that a soccer game was in progress atop the landing zone.
Abingdon Co. Image displays ©2021 British Puma Mk2 helicopter
Abingdon Co. Image displays ©2021 British Puma Mk2 helicopter
Abingdon Co. Image displaying ©2021 British Puma Mk2 helicopter
Abingdon Co. Image displaying ©2021 British Puma Mk2 helicopter

The Crash

Moments into the new route, the rotors on Burkel’s helicopter became ensnared in a surveillance balloon tether. The tether prevented the rotors from holding the 4-ton British Puma Mk 2 helicopter aloft, eventually crashing the copter into the ground at more than 4,000 feet per minute.
Abingdon Co. Image displaying ©2016 Retired Colonel Laurel “Buff” Burkel in her halo brace. woman sitting with a grey american pattern t shirt and blue jeans sitting down with her left arm up while having a thunbs up wearing a bahama blue Marina watch on her right wrist while she had a neck brace smiling.
Abingdon Co. Image displaying ©2016 Retired Colonel Laurel “Buff” Burkel in her halo brace. woman sitting with a grey american pattern t shirt and blue jeans sitting down with her left arm up while having a thunbs up wearing a bahama blue Marina watch on her right wrist while she had a neck brace smiling.
Abingdon Co. Image displaying ©2016 Retired Colonel Laurel “Buff” Burkel in her halo brace. woman sitting with a grey american pattern t shirt and blue jeans sitting down with her left arm up while having a thunbs up wearing a bahama blue Marina watch on her right wrist while she had a neck brace smiling.
Abingdon Co. Image displaying ©2016 Retired Colonel Laurel “Buff” Burkel in her halo brace. woman sitting with a grey american pattern t shirt and blue jeans sitting down with her left arm up while having a thunbs up wearing a bahama blue Marina watch on her right wrist while she had a neck brace smiling.

The Recovery

Buff was among the 4 passengers of 9 who survived the crash, but suffered serious spinal injuries that required multiple surgeries and months of physical therapy. Her chances of walking again were remote. “In my case, I had a broken C2, called a Hangman’s Fracture, like Christopher Reeves, then I had a crushed C 5, 6 disk.”Once doctors fused her vertebrae together with 4 titanium screws, she spent three months in Halo Traction and the following year regaining her strength. Buff proved the doubters wrong by walking again, but for her, just walking wasn’t enough.
What she says about her Abingdon watch

"I've had my watch since June 2015 and I love it! This is my third Abingdon watch and I can't say enough about it. I was wearing my watch on 11 Oct 15, when the British helicopter I was a passenger on crashed in the NATO compound in Kabul. My watch survived, as did I. Completely amazing, given my injuries and the damage to other items I had on my person that day. It is a tribute to the hardy, yet classy, construction, design and style. I've worn my Marina watch every day since the crash - in every uniform combination...a LOT of compliments and people impressed with the sturdiness of the watch."

What she wears:
Marina Watch
Miyota 8215 Automatic 40+ Hours Power Reserve Data Function 3 Hand