By Charmain Z. BrackettFebruary 12, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Army News Service, Feb. 12, 2008) -- Although he no longer has his sight, 1st Lt. Ivan Castro doesnAca,!a,,ct believe in it placing limitations on himself.
Aca,!A"I have dreams and goals,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Because IAca,!a,,cm blind it may take me a little longer (to achieve them).Aca,!A?
Castro is receiving treatment at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical CenterAca,!a,,cs blind rehabilitation unit. He is also training to run the Boston Marathon in April.
A native of New Jersey, Castro moved to Puerto Rico when he was 12. In college, he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Aca,!A"I was young and dumb and didnAca,!a,,ct put my max into college,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"After four years, I decided to go active duty.Aca,!A?
Castro has been active duty for 18 years and served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. HeAca,!a,,cs been a drill sergeant and worked with many missions in Belize, Ecuador and Venezuela. After many years as an enlisted noncommissioned officer, he attended officer candidate school, eventually joining the 82nd Airborne Division as a first lieutenant.
He was deployed to Afghanistan during the elections in 2005, and in 2006 deployed to Iraq.
CastroAca,!a,,cs injuries came while serving as a platoon leader in Iraq. There, he had been positioned on a rooftop to provide support to his unit.
Aca,!A"We started to receive fire,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"A round landed five feet to my left.Aca,!A?
The explosion killed two of his Soldiers. Fragments from the explosion blew his right eye out of its socket, broke his nose and ripped off the tip of his right index finger. He also sustained injuries to a neck artery, his lungs collapsed, he suffered a pulmonary embolism and an aneurysm, and had numerous open wounds.
He was unconscious for six weeks after his injuries.
Castro had numerous surgeries and is scheduled for another surgery in Bethesda, Md., on ValentineAca,!a,,cs Day.
At the blind rehab unit, Castro is learning how to live practically with his blindness, learning Braille and how to maintain his mobility are a few of the tasks he works on each day.
Last week, he walked from 13th and Broad Streets to 6th and Broad in downtown Augusta.
Aca,!A"There are a lot of chairs and tables on Broad Street,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Broad Street is 50 steps across.Aca,!A?
He also is learning to use a computer with adaptive software.
Castro said he wants to be back at work by April 1. He also said he wants to stay active duty and his command at Fort Bragg is working to help him to do that.
Aca,!A"I could work teaching or in an office setting,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"I think that will be great. I will be able to show people that blind people can be productive. I donAca,!a,,ct see blindness as a disability.Aca,!A?
His injuries have done nothing to dampen his sense of humor.
He said heAca,!a,,cd drive if theyAca,!a,,cd let him and if he could find a brave enough person to sit in the passenger seat.
Castro credits his attitude to his faith.
Aca,!A"Things happen for a reason,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"I believe in the Lord. The Lord has kept me here. ThereAca,!a,,cs a reason why IAca,!a,,cm blind. A lot of people say IAca,!a,,cm inspirational and motivational -- maybe that is the reason.Aca,!A?
His wife Evelyn and her mother have been strong supporters and caregivers.
Aca,!A"SheAca,!a,,cs my pit bull,Aca,!A? he said of his wife and her tenacious spirit.
While in the Augusta area, heAca,!a,,cs also had the support of his friend, Command Sgt. Maj. Chester Grelock, of the 551st Signal Battalion.
Aca,!A"HeAca,!a,,cs been running with me in the mornings,Aca,!A? said Castro. He ran the Army Ten Miler Oct. 7 and the Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 28. He plans to be in the Boston Marathon April 21.
Castro said heAca,!a,,cs always been a runner, but he never had the opportunity to participate in many marathons because of deployments.
As an officer, Castro said he knows there are many people looking up to him, and he promises not to disappoint. On Jan. 24, Grelock arranged for him to speak to a group of NCOs, and Castro said his message was a simple one.
Aca,!A"Never quit,Aca,!A? he said.
He also hoped he imparted to the group to keep the Army values and maintain the faith they embraced.
Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cm happy for what IAca,!a,,cve got. I could be depressed and feeling sorry for myself, but thatAca,!a,,cs not going to get me anywhere,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cve got to face the music.Aca,!A?