Big Day for Navy Swimmer
Today, September 7, 2012 is not only the day US Navy Lieutenant Brad Snyder competes for another gold medal. It’s also the one-year anniversary of the day he was blinded by an IED explosion while deployed in Afghanistan.
“It was pretty much immediate that I (decided I) was going to try and minimize my blindness as much as possible, and get out and pursue success,” the former Navy swim team captain told The Associated Press. “Thankfully my support network was pretty savvy and said, `You should check out this Paralympic swimming thing.'”
Not only did he check out this “Paralympic swimming thing,” he excelled at it. He’s already won gold in the 100-meter freestyle swim and a silver medal in the 50-meter swim in the 2012 Paralympics.
Lieutenant Snyder is one of 20 US veterans — six of whom were wounded in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars — who came to compete in the Paralympics. In a Huffington Post interview, he states:
“I hope that my generation,” Snyder says, “the warriors coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq who are lying in bed missing a limb or whatever and they don’t know what’s next, can see my story and say: `Hey, that’s for me. If he can do it, I can too.'”
In a brief video blog for the US Paralympian team, he talks about the special meaning behind each of his tattoos.
“In my line of work, I had seen quite a few injuries due to blasts, and none of them were very good,” Snyder said. “I was able to see out of my left eye for a brief moment after I was blown up.
“I looked down and saw I had both my legs and both my arms, and immediately felt relatively optimistic about the outcome. I felt very thankful that maybe this isn’t going to be so bad.”
Through its partnerships with the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the USOC Paralympic Military Program has impacted the lives of thousands of injured military personnel and veterans. They provide post-rehabilitation support and mentoring to service members who’ve sustained substantial physical injuries such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, visual impairment/blindness and stroke. In clinics, camps and connections with other athletes, the program introduces veterans to adaptive sport techniques and opportunities.
There’s no question about the need for these programs. During the past two years, sports participation rates at Warrior Transition Units, Wounded Warrior Battalions/Detachments and other Wounded Warrior programs throughout the U.S. have increased from 31% to 54%.
If you are a wounded veteran or know a wounded veteran who could benefit with the camaraderie of and support from fellow soldiers like those in the US Paralympic Military Program, you can visit USParalympics.org/FindAClub to locate a program in your area.