Wounded Veteran, Paralympian Tells Story of Perseverance
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
LONDON, Sep. 5, 2012 Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines answer the nation's call to serve, knowing there likely will be a time where they will be asked to step into harm's way.
With the hopes and prayers of their families, comrades and the community, they embark on their tour of service never knowing what exactly they can expect or when that day will come.
For Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder, one of three active duty service members competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games here, that day came Sept. 7, 2011, while he served in Afghanistan.
Speaking during a news conference today, Snyder shared his harrowing experience, but continued to demonstrate an inspirational and unbridled optimism about his future despite having lost his sight when an improvised explosive device detonated.
“I actually remember everything from the blast to when I arrived at the first medical facility,” Snyder said. “I was aiding the evacuation of two other people who were hurt in another blast, and probably within 10 meters of that first blast, I stepped on a secondary explosive device that was buried in the ground.
“I remember the sound of the blast, and I remember I actually could see out of my left eye originally, and looked down and saw I had both my legs and both my arms,” he continued. “While I was in shock, and I was pretty scared about the extent of the damage, there was a whole bunch of optimism when I looked down and saw that largely, I'm OK.”
Snyder said he remembered the medic evaluating him and asking him if he could walk – an emotional message to his fellow sailors.
“He stood me up, and we were able to walk away, which was a huge thing for my teammates out there in Afghanistan,” he said. “It's a tough thing to watch your buddy get hurt, and my face was pretty messed up.
“[This memory] kind of haunts a lot of the guys, but at the same time, I walked away,” Snyder emphasized. “When they watched the [helicopter] go away, they knew that I was going to be fine eventually.”
The Navy lieutenant said that because of the damage to his face, doctors put him into a medically induced coma for a 60-hour trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“I woke up in the hospital with my mom and my family,” Snyder said. “It was a tough recovery, but with the support of my mom and my family, it really wasn't that bad.”
Snyder said he initially used pain medicine, but that caused more challenges.
“I realized the painkillers [were] making it hard for me to keep my cognizance of what's going on, so I needed to wean myself off of painkillers,” he said. “[This] was Step One.”
From there, Snyder said, the next step was to remove his intravenous tubes and becoming mobile.
“As I was able to get out of bed, I immediately hopped on a treadmill and started walking,” he said. “And all of these things kind of [built] on each other, and I was able to make a quick recovery from [intensive care].”
Snyder said he was known before college in his Tampa, Fla., community for being a swimmer, and the news of his injury had great impact.
“So the decision was made: if I got back in the pool, it would show that I'm OK,” he said. “I lost my sight – that's a blow – but I'm going to get past it, and figure out how to move forward.”