The 2016 Paralympic Games drew to a close last weekend. Sunday’s closing ceremonies in Rio paid homage to cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad, a member of the 2016 Iranian Paralympic Cycling Team, who died last week after crashing his bike during a race. The tragedy in Rio was felt acutely within the community of Paralympic athletes, and marred an otherwise joyous and celebratory two-week period.

Team USA athletes who competed in the Paralympics this year had a tragic event to mark, too, as they observed the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The significance of the 9/11 anniversary carries extra weight for members of Team USA who are veterans of the U.S. military.

Nearly all athletes competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games have persevered in the face of disabling setbacks, injury, illness, and stigma, and this is especially true for the 31 veterans who were part of the U.S. Paralympic Team this year.

The Paralympics have helped the VA raise awareness for American veterans and the attention devoted to veterans has, in turn, raised the profile of Paralympic sports in general. The way we think about disabled athletes and the way disabled athletes are depicted in American culture has evolved since the first Paralympic Games were held in 1948.

Nonetheless, wounded veterans still face enormous challenges which hinder their rehabilitation and route to recovery. Many have endured physical injuries, such as visual impairments and amputations, as well as less visible struggles like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

The Paralympic Games offer an opportunity to celebrate the resilience and athletic achievements of American veterans and those who are currently serving. Below I’ve featured several U.S. veterans and active-duty athletes who competed on the U.S. Paralympic Team in Rio last month:

Anthony McDaniel
Hometown: Pascagoula, MS
Service Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
Sport: Para Rugby
A life-long athlete, McDaniel grew up playing basketball, football and baseball, while also competing in track and field. An improvised explosive device cost McDaniel his legs and left hand in 2010, while he was serving the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. After recovering, he found solace in para track and field, basketball, and rugby.

A life-long athlete, McDaniel grew up playing basketball, football and baseball, while also competing in track and field. An improvised explosive device cost McDaniel his legs and left hand in 2010, while he was serving the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. After recovering, he found solace in para track and field, basketball, and rugby.

Brad Snyder
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Service Branch: U.S. Navy
Sport: Para Swimming
Brad Snyder, Gold Medalist Swimmer and U.S. Navy Veteran

Brad Snyder, Gold Medalist Swimmer and U.S. Navy Veteran. Snyder lost his vision after sustaining wounds in combat while deployed in Afghanistan.  Exactly a year after losing his vision, Snyder won two gold medals in the 100 and 400-meter freestyle at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Kari Miller
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Service Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
Sport: Sitting Volleyball
dave-rocker-kari_miller
Michael Lukow
Hometown: Alamosa, CO
Service Branch: U.S. Army Infantry
Sport: Para Archery (Recurve Bow)
Michael Lukow

Michael Lukow lost his right foot while serving in Iraq. During his rehabilitation, he took up archery and learned to walk on prosthetics and braces by retrieving arrows. The more consistently Lukow hit his targets, the easier his walks became.

Jennifer Schuble
Hometown: Homewood, AL
Service Branch: U.S. Army
Sport: Track & Road Cycling
While attending the United States Military Academy at West Point to become a commissions officer, Schuble sustained a traumatic brain injury in her hand-to-hand combat class. Schuble sustained an additional TBI in a car wreck, and in 2004, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The Paralympics in Rio mark Schuble's 3rd return the Paralympics, having competed in the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.

While attending the United States Military Academy at West Point to become a commissions officer, Schuble sustained a traumatic brain injury in her hand-to-hand combat class. Schuble sustained an additional TBI in a car accident, and in 2004, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Schuble also competed in the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.

By | 2017-07-19T20:25:05+00:00 September 19th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

About the Author:

David L. Rocker brings more than 30 years of executive experience in corporate finance and workflow optimization to his current role as managing partner of the Rocker Group, LLC. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, The Rocker Group is a management consulting firm specializing in analytics, compliance and planning.

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