VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Army News Service, March 12, 2010) - Former Army Staff Sgt. Heath Calhoun, a veteran of the Iraq war and an alpine skier, has been selected as flag bearer for the U.S. team at Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games this evening.
To select the flag bearer, captains from each sport met in the Athlete Village Wednesday.
"I am incredibly honored that my team even nominated me for this," Calhoun said. "Just being part of Team USA is a huge honor, so being selected from this talented group of athletes is something that I'm proud of. It's surprising but I'm very grateful."
Calhoun lost both his legs above the knees while he was serving as a squad leader for the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq.
"I was at the rear corner of the Humvee when the grenade hit the tail light right beside my right leg and exploded," he said. The attack killed another Soldier, who Calhoun honors by wearing a bracelet etched with the Soldiers name and date of the attack on his right wrist.
Just five months after he was injured, he attended a Winter Sports Clinic in Aspen, Colo., where he attempted snow skiing for the first time, using a mono-ski.
After nine months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Calhoun became involved with Paralympic sports.
Today he is running, swimming and golfing, in addition to skiing.
In the spring of 2005, Heath and another wounded service member biked across the country to raise money and awareness for wounded warriors. He used a special hand-cycle then to pedal the 4200 miles and the endeavor is documented in the Showtime Original Production "Home Front."
In 2006, he received two new prosthetics which not only enabled him to walk, but to compete in track and swimming.
In 2008, Calhoun dedicated himself to competing at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. He relocated from Virginia to train with Challenge Aspen, one of the nation's most prominent ski racing programs in Aspen, Colo.
"I'm just thrilled to be representing my country in Vancouver," he said. "It's a little different than the role I was used to [serving in the military] but I take it just as seriously. I'm so honored to be here."
At the 2009 U.S. Paralympic Alpine National Championships, Calhoun took second place in the men's sit-ski slalom and won gold in the men's sit-ski super G. In the same year, he finished in the top 10 in giant slalom at an International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing World Cup race in Vancouver.
In 2009, Ski Race Magazine named Calhoun the "Role Model of the Year," a sentiment that members of the U.S. Paralympic Team agreed with. He is also the Amputee Coalition of America's "Role Model of the Year" for 2008 and the recipient of the 2007 George C. Lang Courage Award from the Wounded Warrior Project.