By Spc. Maricris CosejoApril 1, 2015
FORT BLISS, Texas - A crowd of wounded Soldiers lined up in front of a registration booth during the U.S. Army trials, Fort Bliss, Texas, March 29, 2015. One Soldier, wearing a black shirt with the words "Wounded Warrior (some assembly required)" printed in white on his shirt, waited anxiously to pick up his bib number and registration papers.
From behind the registration table, he seemed normal. The long line of competitors behind him eagerly awaited their turn. As soon as he wheeled out from behind the table, it became clear he was missing his legs.
As he headed to the pre-staging area for bicycles and hand cycles, the crowd's eyes followed him. He got out of his wheel chair and sat on the ground beside a hand cycle and started checking every part of it. He mounted the hand cycle and began warming up.
Sgt. Stefan Leroy, a native of Santa Rosa, California, a hand cyclist, is a wounded warrior with the Walter Reed Warrior Transition Unit, Bethesda, Maryland. Leroy, a former Cavalry Scout, lost both his legs at the age of 21.
On June 7, 2012, during a patrol in Afghanistan, two of Leroy's friends were hit by two different improvised explosive devices. "I was carrying one of them to a helicopter, and I stepped on the third IED of the day," said Leroy. "I lost my left leg from above my knee and my right leg below the knee."
Three months after losing both legs in war, he started cycling. He needed to stay fit and motivated. "It's mainly because I didn't want to be sitting down and not doing anything," said Leroy.
Leroy's father's love of cycling contributed a lot into his recovery.
"My dad is a big cyclist, we were able to cycle together," said Leroy. "He was able to do it with me, and that made me more dedicated than I would have been otherwise."
Cycling with his father led to taking his new sport Army wide. "As a cyclist, this introduces me into something a little different; I've never actually done the time trial," said Leroy.
As part of his recovery program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Leroy hand cycles long distance courses ranges from 50 to 90 miles a day. The time trial is Leroy's first time competing on a short distance course.
"I'm pretty good in long distance. I can beat a lot of people, but I've never really taken a short course before," said Leroy. "My shortest course ever was 13 miles, and that was a sprint the whole way through, so this course is six miles total and it's definitely going to be a sprint."
The smaller course posed a new challenge to Leroy, but like the rest of his previous challenges in life, he eagerly awaited to take it on.
"This is a much smaller and faster course, so it will be interesting to see how well I do in this," said Leroy.
Leroy sprinted to third place with a total time of 23 minutes and 53 seconds after the 11 kilometer course.
This is a new challenge, but not a new excuse for Leroy. "Keep doing what you can do right now, if you keep pushing yourself right now and maintaining that fitness level you'll be able to transition into something more that you'd want to do," said Leroy.