The Sochi Paralympics are well underway, but for those who were injured in battle overseas, the Games aren’t just about athletic grit. For these veterans, it’s an extension of their service.
This year, the U.S. Paralympic team boasts 18 military members -- 16 veterans and two active-duty servicemen.
Rico Roman -- whose left leg was amputated after he was injured by an explosive device in Iraq in 2007 -- is one such athlete who sees competing as a way for him to make his country proud.
He’s competing on the U.S. sled hockey team, a sport in which players move around the ice on a one-bladed sled and handle the puck with two poles.
"I know some of the sacrifices that [the other veterans have made], so to be able to play a game is just great," Roman told Sports Illustrated Kids. "We're here representing our country in another way."
He’s not the only one. Check out the athletes below who went from getting severely injured on the battlefield to competing on one of the greatest athletic stages.
Within a year of having his left leg amputated above the knee after he was injured in 2007 by an IED during his third tour in Iraq, retired Army Staff Sgt. Rico Roman completed two bike marathons and rode 150 miles in a day
to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. Through Operation Comfort
, the Purple Heart recipient then picked up competitive sled hockey.
Not even losing both legs above the knee could keep this lifelong hockey player off the ice. Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Josh Sweeney became a bilateral amputee while serving in Afghanistan in 2009
, according to the U.S. Paralympics website. He was immediately drawn to sled hockey after completing his rehabilitation. He started playing with an all-military member club team in San Antonio, Texas, then joined the National Sled Hockey Team, and is now representing the U.S. in Sochi.
An avid athlete since he was a kid, retired Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Price transitioned to adaptive sports as soon as he could after he was paralyzed from the waist down in 2006
after getting hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq while on patrol, according to KSHB. While competing in the National Veteran Wheelchair Games, Price caught the eye of an Paralympic scout who invited the vet to try out Nordic skiing. He was nominated to join the 2014 team in Sochi without ever having played on a national team.
Inspired to serve after the Sept. 11 attacks, Andy Soule joined the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan
, according to the U.S. Paralympics website. After an IED detonated next to Soule’s Humvee, he had both his legs amputated above the knee. He started cross-country skiing for the first time soon after, and made history at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games by winning a bronze medal in the 2.4km biathlon, making him the first U.S. biathlete -- Olympic or Paralympic -- to medal in the event at the Games.
Having grown up in a military family, retired Army Staff Sgt. Heath Calhoun set his sights on continuing his grandfather's and father’s tradition of service, according to the U.S. Paralympics website. While deployed in Iraq in 2003, Calhoun was severely injured when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his Humvee
, and he had both his legs amputated above the knee. After intensive rehabilitation, the Purple Heart recipient started training with the Wounded Warrior Project
, and was introduced to adaptive skiing. In 2005, he played a role in the passing of the Wounded Warrior Bill
, which vowed to improve health care for injured vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.