By Annette P. GomesJune 8, 2018
Oren Lara: Honorary Team Army Captain for Life
By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - While more than 200 Team Army athletes, family members and fans are preparing to watch Team Army defend its Gold Medal in Wheelchair Basketball against Team Air Force at the United Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs during the 2018 Warrior Games, its biggest fan, 15-year old Oren Lara is 1,700 miles away in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Oren served as the Honorary Team Army Captain during the 2013-2015 Warrior Games.
"To this day, Oren points to the poster that depicts the top 10 Warrior Games moments. His feature story made the list. I get emotional just thinking about it. After all these years, I'm still amazed and it really left a big impression on all of our hearts," said Catrin Lara, Oren's mother.
In 2013, it was Oren who left a lasting impression on everyone including Lt. Col. Aaron Tremain, former Warrior Transition Battalion Commander at Fort Carson, Colorado. Born 15 weeks early, Oren was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Doctors didn't expect him to live. He proved them wrong. During a routine check-up at Evans Community Hospital at Fort Carson, Tremain met and invited the Lara family to the 2013 Warrior Games. Upon arriving at the Games, Oren was asked to become honorary Team Captain.
"Initially, I was coming up with excuses not to attend the Games. My husband, Sgt. 1st Class Ruben Lara was unable to attend due to his preparation for deployment and then I realized what I am teaching my kids by not attending," Lara said. "I wanted them to know that you should not make excuses in life. It turned out to be a phenomenal experience. Team Army won a gold medal in wheelchair basketball at the 2013 Games. Oren was smiling from ear to ear and huddling with the team, it was awesome," she said.
Although Oren speaks with a slight speech impediment, Lara says she understood that moment perfectly.
"I understand his reactions and expressions, I speak Oren," she laughed.
The Lara family left Fort Carson in 2015 and relocated to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Oren, now 15, attends public school and continues to thrive. Catrin says having a teenager in the family has been challenging and a blessing all rolled into one.
"We were told Oren wouldn't make it but to see him with a mustache and just blossoming is just beautiful. We're trying to purchase a wheelchair accessible van so he can be more independent and we can transport him in his power chair. It's hard to lift a teenager now that he's 95 pounds," she laughed.
Despite their challenges, Lara says it's her family that will always win a gold medal in the game of life.
"The Warrior Games made such an impact on our lives. From day one, we've tried to teach our children the sky's the limit and no matter what obstacles we encounter, we continue to appreciate each and every day. We never said why us, we're so grateful to everyone we met along the way, said Catrin.