Wounded warrior on quest for gold
May 7, 2010
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 5, 2010) -- Sgt. Juan Alcivar will be competing for gold in the inaugural Warrior Games May 10-14 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
About 200 disabled veterans and servicemembers will compete in the games, sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Defense Department. Events will include cycling, shooting, archery, track, swimming, discus, and shot put, along with sitting and wheelchair versions of volleyball.
Alcivar said he anticipates his most challenging sport will be sitting volleyball, but he'll also be striving for medals in shotput, discus and cycling.
Just three years ago, however, Alcivar could not have imagined himself competing at the Olympic training center. After AK-47 rounds shattered his femur in five places, he was unable to work out and said he became depressed and overweight.
It happened March 29, 2007. He was at the rear of a patrol near Baghdad pulling security.
Slowly and methodically his fellow Soldiers moved down the street listening carefully to the mosque speakers and scanning what normally should have been a busy Friday afternoon marketplace.
"There was nobody there, nothing... so we're already thinking, okay, something is gonna happen, we're gonna get hit somehow," Alcivar recalled. "We'd been having problems with snipers in the area and we were checking for IEDs."
Next thing the 140th Cavalry Soldier knew, he was on the ground with a burning sensation running through his right leg. He thought he had just been startled and fallen down. When he tried to stand, all he felt was hipbone hitting skin.
"So, I'm trying to stand but can't and everybody is yelling to take cover," he said. "I was never unconscious, but my platoon sergeant came out, grabbed me by the collar and just dragged me out."
While Alcivar didn't lose a limb, the 7.62mm AK-47 round shattered his right femur in five places and a bullet still remains lodged in his leg. Today, he has a rod replacing his femur that runs from hip to knee.
Recovery and rehabilitation from the physical part of the surgery went well for Alcivar, but unable to exercise in his usual way, he found himself depressed and overweight.
"Oh yeah, I was very much depressed," he said. "I can't run, anymore and that cuts out (regular) volleyball, football, basketball, baseball; it cuts out a lot of sports. You go from 100 mph doing PT everyday to lying in a hospital bed feeling sorry for yourself, eating fast food and just getting big."
But then through determination and working through the depression, he saw his wound as a doorway to other physical activity and variations on the sports he really liked participating in before being wounded. He dropped 30 pounds.
Now, he hopes to come home from the inaugural Warrior Games with gold.
He anticipates the most challenging sport will be sitting volleyball, because he said while the net is considerably lower, paralympic rules dictate the buttocks not leave the ground when going for the ball. He said it was tough at first, but then it became like being on patrol and clearing a house.
"You train yourself to know where to be and get in position," he said. "Like military training, you train so often that it becomes muscle memory - same thing in sit-down volleyball."
Alcivar would like to stay in the Army, but he knows he can no longer serve as a cavalry scout. He's hoping to change to another MOS.
"I love the military, the life, the order it gave me. It gave me a steady consistency in life that I didn't have before," he said.