By Mrs. Jennifer Bacchus (AMC)October 31, 2019
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- This year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month theme was Don't Set Limits on Unlimited Potential.
Through song and humor, a choir from the Alabama School for the Blind and speaker Joel Tavera gave the crowd a glimpse of their potential.
Tavera joined the Army in May 2006 and deployed to Iraq with the 7th Sustainment Brigade for duty with the 7th Signal Company in October 2007.
On March 12, 2008, a truck he was in was hit during a rocket attack. He was one of two survivors.
"Something just didn't feel right," Tavera said of the day of the attack. "I heard a whistle, opened the door and a few moments later I was hit."
Tavera shared the story of his attack, recuperation, recovery and numerous surgeries with depot employees.
"I had to relearn how to walk, how to talk and then I had to learn to transfer from the wheelchair to a vehicle," he said.
Tavera was hospitalized from March 2008 to March 2010. He was told he wouldn't be able to walk or talk.
"I like to go against the odds," he said.
Nearly three years after the attack, he completed a 5K in Gasparilla, Fla., proving he could not only walk, but do so for long distances.
"I've been given life and I've been given a second opportunity to live life," Tavera said.
Tavera worked with computers in the Army and now relies on technology to interact with the world and his large, extended family, which now includes numerous wounded warriors.
"Without technology, I would be isolated," he said.
Looking back, he said when he joined the Army he wanted to deploy and serve overseas. It's a decision he has never regretted and would do again.
"This is someone who sacrificed his way of life for our way of life and he isn't throwing a pity party," Col. Marvin Walker, ANAD's commander said of Tavera. "The only thing that limits you is yourself."