By MaryTherese GriffinApril 10, 2018
ARLINGTON, Va. - The definition of determination can be simplified into two words: Ernesto Altamirano. The U.S. Army Sergeant and infantryman from Pompano, California epitomizes the word. After three years recuperating at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and three times trying to make Team Army for the Department of Defense Warrior Games, Altamirano feels he is finally strong enough.
"I have tried to get to Warrior Games three times, but I had a lot of recovery to do," Altamirano said. "Now, I am stronger and I will get a chance to show it in Colorado.
Since 2008, all Altamirano wanted to do is to serve his country. After deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, the unthinkable happened on his third deployment.
"While training in Latvia there was a fever going around and I caught it and it would not go away."
Altamirano soldiered on to his next mission, but the fever got worse. On February 18, 2015, Altamirano was medically evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for a month and later transferred to Walter Reed where he remained until his recent retirement from the Army.
From the fever, Altamirano developed Advanced Achalasia Esophageal Disease. "My esophagus was enlarged and had to be removed. My stomach has been stretched to my throat for food intake and I am still on a liquid diet."
Altamirano sees representing Team Army at the DoD Warrior Games as his last duty as a Soldier. He also wants to show his doctors he can still be athletic.
"I want to prove the doctors wrong. They told me I couldn't really workout anymore because at one point I kept losing iron and needed blood transfusions every time I worked out," Altamirano said. "I have come a long way and I want to show that I can still do things. I also want make my son and my wife proud."
The future cyber security engineer will compete in powerlifting, field, rowing and wheelchair basketball at this year's Warrior Games. Altamirano has overcome a lot to compete in Colorado Springs and has some sage advice for others recovering from injury or illness.
"Don't let your illness or injury stop you from doing anything." He clearly hasn't and he will get the chance to show his doctors and everyone else just how much he can do.