By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and TransitionNovember 26, 2018
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Since May 13, 2008, retired U.S. Army Spc. Steve Baskis has seen the world from a different perspective. That day, while providing security as a member of the 4th Infantry Division, Baskis was injured from an improvised explosive device. The blast sent shrapnel into his head and every extremity of his body nearly costing him his left arm. Although his arm was spared, Baskis lost some of his hearing, his sense of smell, and his sight.
Now 10 years later, the 32 year old mountain climbing, kayaking adventurer says a multitude of people helped him find his new normal. That help came from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., where he began his recovery to Chicago's Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital, the first blind rehabilitation center for veterans that opened its doors in 1945. In Chicago, Baskis had many people help him adjust to his new normal, specifically his Army Wounded Warrior Program advocate, Linda Bronski. "Linda Bronski and a host of others helped me navigate my way through getting my bearings straight," Baskis said.
Bronski does not see any of her efforts as being necessarily special, she just did what AW2 advocates do, take care of injured Soldiers. "I did the blind training and went for walks with him and his blind rehabilitation specialist as he learned to independently navigate [his way] inside and outside the grounds," Bronski said. "Once he left the hospital, I stayed involved with him. I took him to appointments and took him to a gym where he would be the first veteran in a new program for injured veterans. [I also took] him to his first vocational rehab appointment." These efforts from Bronski and others Baskis says helped him to shape his new self and build his confidence.
"There is nothing that surprises me in what [Steven] does," says Bronski. "We had a thing [in our office] of 'Where's Steven Baskis?' (like Where's Waldo?), because how many people do you call and [each time] they are in another state, another country or another continent?"
Baskis now spends his time doing work for the charity he started and seeing the world he longed to travel before joining the Army, only in a different light than he planned. "Don't get me wrong, I don't like being blind, I mean who would?" Baskis said, but he has learned to "embrace the suck" as he says. "I've seen more of the world being blind than I ever did sighted."
From climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to most recently kayaking the Colorado River for 12 days with four other blind veterans, Baskis acknowledges he has done many cool things, but that doesn't mean everything is always great. "I have my dark thoughts and bad days like everyone else. It is NOT easy," Baskis said. "But I remember some things from early on, like the fact that my team leader, who put a picture of his kids on the dash of our vehicle every day, died right next to me. I recognize... I got a second chance."
Baskis says for him to keep moving is to keep living, something he shares and advises other Soldiers and veterans who struggle to do. "Push yourself and challenge yourself and establish your new normal. Anything is possible."