Blinded EOD Tech to Swim on U.S. Paralympic Team

Blinded Navy Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer Brad Snyder, right, is guided by his younger brother Mitchell as they race together to win the 1500 meter gold medal in track at the 2012 Warrior Games. Since his combat injury, Snyder has focused on track and swimming to bring new vision to his life. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

U.S. Paralympian and wounded warrior Navy Lt. Brad Snyder can swim 100 meters in less than a minute.

That’s almost Michael Phelps-fast.

Even if the 28-year-old explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer still had his sight, a sub-sixty-second 100-meter time would be worthy of national praise. Without it, Snyder clocks in as one of the fastest visually impaired swimmers on the planet.

Over the weekend, he clinched his spot on the U.S. Paralympic swim team bound for London with a blockbuster race in another of his favorite events , the 400-meter freestyle.  Snyder took 54 seconds off his previous best time, finishing in 4:35:62.

It Happened So Recently

Just this past September, the former captain of his Naval Academy swim team was leading a patrol in Afghanistan on a life-saving mission to find and disarm improvised explosive devices (IED’s) placed by Taliban militants.

As Snyder’s team moved through farm land, a mine went off injuring two allied Afghan fighters at the front of their column. When Snyder rushed to their aid, he stepped on a second pressure plate, setting off another explosion. The initial shock wave knocked his goggles off, leaving his eyes exposed to the blinding flash of the blast.

He knew he was hurt pretty bad, but he still had some vision as he walked to the extraction helicopter. When he arrived at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center a few days later, however, he was told he would lose his sight forever.

A Brother’s Love

Snyder had no plans of playing the victim. Just weeks after he was released from the hospital he began running with his younger brother—connected by a short piece of rope and a lifetime of mutual respect.

“I’ve always looked up to him,” said 24-year-old Mitchell Snyder. “He’s my older brother and he’s always been such an inspiration to me growing up. He’s such a tireless worker.  There was no way I was going to let him sit around. That’s not who he is.”

The Snyder brothers ran together for weeks before Brad decided he wanted to get back in the pool “where he belonged.”

“The water is my home,” he said. “It’s my safe-haven. It’s a place where without my sight I still feel like I can be free to push myself physically, and it’s the only place where I don’t feel anxiety, like I’m about to run into something or hurt myself.”

New Vision

At the 2012 Warrior Games—an annual Paralympics competition held in Colorado Springs and sponsored by the USO—Snyder re-entered the world of competitive swimming for the first time since his injury.

“Here’s a guy with everything in the world going for him,” said Will Wilson, head coach of the Navy / Coast Guard Team. “A young lieutenant out there on the pointy end of the spear saving lives and he has a bad day—a bad day that robbed him of his sight. Fortunately it didn’t rob him of his soul, which has given him new vision toward competitive swimming and track.”

For Snyder, however, the way forward is sticking to the old vision he had when he mapped out his future.

“I want to do the same things I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I want a family, I want a graduate degree, and I want a house of my own. My goals are still the same.  I’m just a little more driven to accomplish them because I understand how easily situations can change.” –  Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

Announcing Microsoft Elevate America’s Veterans Initiative!

Microsoft Corp. recently announced a competitive request for proposal (RFP) process for organizations to be a part of the Elevate America Veterans Initiative.  The initiative is designed to provide technology skills and support resources to veterans and their spouses when they transition to the civilian work force.  Applications are due on June 30, 2010, and the awardees will be named in August.  Click here to learn about eligibility and how your organization can participate.

The Elevate America Veterans Initiative is a new part of Microsoft’s Elevate America program, which provides free technology training in 17 states (more are coming soon) and already includes FREE online resources such as Microsoft Digital Literacy trainingMicrosoft Office Live Small BusinessMicrosoft StudentMicrosoft DreamSpark for Students, and Community Technology Skills Program Partners.

For the Veterans Initiative, “Microsoft has convened organizations serving veterans to serve on an advisory committee for the Veterans Initiative over the next two years to help provide guidance and expertise throughout this process. Organizations on the advisory committee include The American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations (USO), and Wounded Warrior Project.”  We’re proud to be a part of this innovative new program!

“We salute Microsoft for its ongoing support of the nation’s wounded veterans and wounded warriors,” says our President and CEO, Sloan Gibson. “The community-based efforts to support these troops and ease the transition from military to civilian life will improve their lives.”

“Wounded Warrior Project believes it is our duty to empower wounded service members with the tools they need to embark on a path toward a successful and meaningful career,” said WWP Executive Director Steve Nardizzi. “We commend Microsoft for creating Elevate America and for shouldering responsibility for the training and transition of our wounded warriors into the civilian work force.”

We invite veterans and their families to utilize the great resources already available, and we will keep you posted on the states and organizations that participate.  And you can always follow The USO and Elevate America on Twitter for the latest!

Click here to learn more about Elevate America’s Veterans Initiative!

4Troops Special Presale Offer

The group 4TROOPS performed the National Anthem at NASCAR's Food City 500 on March 21 in Bristol TN.

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and what better gift than the new CD from 4Troops?  Okay, so since it’s only available for pre-sale on Amazon right now she might not get it in time for the actual holiday…but we have a special coupon code that will save you $2 off the retail price!

4Troops is a singing group comprised of 4 US Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, who sing uplifting songs on behalf of troops everywhere.  You may have seen them on Good Morning America and Fox & Friends…and our blog!

Starting today – Tuesday, April 27 – and running until the day before in-store sales begin on Monday, May 10, simply type in the coupon code uso4troo when you pre-order the CD and get this special discount.  We’ll also remind you that Sony Music will donate 50 cents from each sale of the 4TROOPS album in the United States to charity. The donation benefits the IAVA, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and – our favorite! – the USO.

We’re honored by 4Troops’ support and hope you enjoy the video below, when the group performed with Lee Greenwood at Bristol before the NASCAR race…

more about “4Troops Videos | The Official 4Troop…“, posted with vodpod