The SRU helps find what works for you
(Photo by MaryTherese Griffin)

Pfc Jacob Candella (2nd from left) passes the ball in a volleying session at the 2024 Wheelchair Rugby Camp at Ft. Belvoir (Photo Credit: MaryTherese Griffin)
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FORT BELVOIR Va.- The life of a Soldier can be unpredictable. The journey is ever-changing, and the change can be permanent for some. Pfc. Jacob Candella is facing a med-board because his journey took a hard turn during a training session at Ft. Leavenworth last year. “I got hit during a combative exercise, and it severed an artery, which caused three strokes,” said the 25-year-old corrections officer.

“I have good days and bad days, and you just gotta focus on the good to get through the bad.” His injury happened in early 2023, and he arrived at the FT Belvoir Soldier Recovery Unit in May.

“When they told me I was going to an SRU, I was like, what are you talking about? What is it? They explained what it is and how it could help. It’s been perfect for me.”

Like most Soldiers, Candella just wanted to get back with his unit. Once he learned how the Ft Belvoir SRU would be able to help him recover, he knew this was the best thing for him. “When you get to an SRU, you go through a process where they evaluate you and see what you can do. They don’t want to worsen your condition, but they also don’t want to limit you either. They want to help you find what works.”

Candella found adaptive sports and, in particular, wheelchair rugby. Candella cautiously took it all in at the 2024 camp at Fort Belvoir in January. “The first day, I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I talked to the coaches, learned the equipment, and followed the safety instructions. Once I got into it, I started to trust my body to react to everything and the equipment to keep me safe. I started enjoying myself to the point that, yes, I tweaked my shoulder the first day, but I am still arguing with PT to let me play,” he laughed while holding an icepack on his shoulder. “This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”

Candella will head to Ft Liberty, North Carolina, in March to compete for a spot on Team Army at the 2024 Army Trials. “My Army career might be over, but to be on Team Army, I’d still serve proudly. You're a Soldier until you’re not.”

To get to where he is in recovery, Candella recognizes the benefit of having the Army Recovery Care Program and the support of the Ft. Belvoir SRU. He hopes any Soldier needing an SRU will take stock of their situation and accept help. “My advice is don’t be a superhero. Understand your injury and limitations and have lots of patience at the SRU. It’s a process, and they will help get you where you're going. Explore every opportunity.”