One year ago today–September 7th, 2011–Navy LT Brad Snyder looked down and saw his arms, legs and torso.
They’re the last things he’ll ever see on this earth.
Snyder, a Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal Officer, was racing across an Afghan farmer’s field a year ago today to help two Afghan soldiers who had just been injured by an exploding IED.
That’s when he stepped on a second IED hidden in an irrigation ditch.
The force of the blast hurled him backwards, his face badly burned. The first thing he remembers doing when he regained consciousness was looking down to see if his arms and legs were still there. They were.
And then everything went black.
Later, at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, Snyder, surrounded by his mother, aunt, sister and two brothers, would listen to a doctor recommend removal of his shredded eyes, and prosthetic replacements.
Fast forward 365 days.
Today–September 7th, 2012–Brad Snyder took gold in the 400-meter freestyle at the London 2012 Paralympics. His time–4:32:41–was a personal best, and a stunning six seconds faster than the time posted by silver medalist Enhamed Enhamed of Spain.
And in the stands cheering were twenty-plus friends and family–including his mother, aunt, sister and two brothers.
“It’s not a poor anniversary,” said Snyder after the race:
and I’m really looking forward to celebrating how far myself and my family have been able to come over the past year. It’s a special night for all of us. We are going to look at this evening as a celebration. A celebration of conquest if you like. We are all happy to be together, being in London and enjoying the experience.
It was Snyder’s third medal and second gold. He earlier took gold in the 100-meter freestyle and silver in the 50-meter freestyle, posting personal bests in both events.
Why did he do it?
Well, for one thing, he says, he’s really competitive.
And he wanted to send a big shout-out to family and friends who have supported him this past year:
My support network really came to bat for me when I was down. My mom, my brothers and sister were at my side. My Navy friends demonstrated their commitment to me. So I feel an obligation to reciprocate that commitment, to show them I appreciate the love. I want to prove to them — and myself — that I can experience success on a level I experienced before, even though I am now blind. Competing was the pinnacle of that.
Finally, he says, he’s hoping to encourage other wounded warriors:
I hope that my generation–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.’
You can read more on the 2012 London Paralympics and Brad Snyder here. You can follow the Paralympics, which run through Sunday, several different ways:
- Live-streamed on the Paralympics website or Team USA’s website
- Recorded events on the Paralympics website or on Team USA’s YouTube channel
- One-hour highlight shows on NBC Sports Network on September 4, 5, 6, and 11 (or later on Universal Sports Network)
- A 90-minute special on NBC, September 16th, 2 p.m. ET
- Follow Team USA on Facebook.