Dorian Gardner was a Marine Corps sergeant serving in Afghanistan in 2010 when an improvised explosive system took his left eye and left him legally blind.
After being evacuated from Delaram, Afghanistan, he was assigned to Wounded Warrior Regiment in Hawaii and, as soon as recovered, he opted to remain within the Marine Corps. The tall, athletic Marine had been a stand out basketball participant amongst his friends earlier than his damage however, together with his visible impairment, the sport he cherished was out of attain. He stated he did not suppose he’d compete once more.
“I gave that up, you already know, there’s not a lot room for basketball … when your depth notion is gone,” Gardner stated.
After his damage, Gardner stated, lots of people instructed him to take a medical retirement and depart the Marine Corps. However, he stated, he had set targets for himself within the Marines and wasn’t going to let a incapacity get in his means.
“The Marine Corps is — day in and time out — a tricky go,” Gardner stated, “however doing it with restricted imaginative and prescient and having to be very reliant on others for help, day after day, made issues a bit more durable. However I used to be decided to show to myself and everyone who doubted me that I may nonetheless do that job — that I may nonetheless be a Marine.”
Now a grasp sergeant assigned to Camp Pendleton, Gardner is not only again to competing — he is profitable medals.
Gardner is among the many veterans and energetic obligation Marines competing within the Marine Corps Trials, an annual competitors hosted by the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment. Trials have been held at Camp Pendleton final week and Gardner competed in a number of occasions, together with wheelchair rugby.
The sport is performed on a basketball court docket, and opponents wheeled themselves up and down it in specially-designed chairs constructed to take a beating — or, to dish them out. Rugby is a notoriously tough sport and, Gardner stated, the sport on wheels isn’t any completely different.
“It is nonetheless a fairly tough sport even within the wheelchair,” Gardner stated. “The chairs are designed particularly to take affect. There’s defensive chairs (and) there’s offensive chairs.”
Wheelchair rugby is performed by folks with numerous disabilities, not simply those that have an effect on their capacity to stroll or run.
Daniel Norman, a retired Marine who lives in Utah, loves the game. Norman is a veteran of the trials and beforehand competed at nationwide and worldwide adaptive sports activities competitions.
Norman stated that regardless of any disabilities, the opponents do not go simple on each other.
“We’re Marines — we’re aggressive by nature,” Norman stated. “We need to win. They’re all my mates (and) I really like them to dying, however after they’re on an reverse workforce, we go ham. We go onerous.”
Gardner started competing in 2017 and stated adaptive sports activities confirmed him what he’s nonetheless able to.
“I found that there are nonetheless so many issues I can do,” Gardner stated. “After pondering to myself, ‘life is over,’ adaptive sports activities actually opened my eyes and confirmed me there are such a lot of issues I may nonetheless do, no matter my damage.”
Gardner, who’s nearing his 20-year mark within the Marines, is on the point of retire. However, he says, his athletic pursuits are simply starting.
“I’m going to be packing it up and retiring after 20 years however that is when the coaching’s gonna begin,” he stated.
Gardner has a brand new aim — to compete within the 2024 Summer time Paralympics in Paris.
Rivals who qualify from final week’s trials can be invited to the nationwide Warrior Video games the place they will compete in opposition to adaptive athletes from the opposite service branches. From there, it is on to the Invictus Video games, a world competitors amongst wounded service members and veteran athletes.
On the trials, Gardner gained gold in shot put and archery. Norman took gold within the 100 meters, energy lifting, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.
The Marines haven’t but introduced which athletes from the trials can be invited to the Warrior Video games.
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