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    Army Trials at Fort Bliss

    Photo By Marcy Sanchez | U.S. Army veteran Sgt. Stefan LeRoy (left), a wounded warrior participating in the...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Army Recovery Care Program

    By Marcy Sanchez
    William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs

    FORT BLISS, Texas – The city of Santa Rosa, California offers a variety of scenery from beaches to forestry and weather similar to the San Francisco Bay Area it is located in; perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.

    As a child, Santa Rosa native and U.S. Army veteran Sgt. Stefan LeRoy enjoyed backpacking, mountain biking and scouting in the Northern California outdoors with his family. This summer will be the first in years LeRoy will reunite with his family to tackle the outdoors again.

    In 2010, about a year after graduating from Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, LeRoy enlisted in the U.S. Army. In 2012 while serving as a Calvary Scout with the 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Squadron, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, LeRoy deployed to Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.

    On June 7, 2012, while on a mission during the deployment, LeRoy’s unit received hostile fire and two improvised explosive devices detonated injuring fellow Soldiers. While carrying a Soldier to a helicopter for medevac, LeRoy stepped on a third IED which resulted in the loss of both legs.

    LeRoy spent the next few months recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Two months after being injured he began hand cycling in the Adaptive Sports Program at WRNMMC.

    “That was the start of my adaptive reconditioning and was my bread and butter for a while because I couldn’t get up on my legs,” said the 25-year-old LeRoy. “I couldn’t get up for a very long time, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t bike but I kept progressing.”

    After his injury his father stayed in Bethesda to support LeRoy in his recovery. His father’s encouragement helped LeRoy stay active through hand cycling for years before moving on to upright sports.

    “I couldn’t get in the water because I had open wounds and I couldn’t walk for more than 45 minutes,” said LeRoy. “It was a long struggle for my conditioning to go from hand cycling to everything else.”

    LeRoy stuck to hand cycling before attempting to run using running blades and cycling upright.

    In 2013, less than a year after losing his legs, he placed 3rd overall in hand cycling at the Boston Marathon. Shortly after returning to his hotel two pressure cooker bombs detonated near the finish line killing three and injuring hundreds. The terrorist attack resulted in a few victims being hospitalized at WRNMMC for rehabilitation.

    Patrick Downes and his wife Jessica Downes spent some time at WRNMMC during their recovery after Patrick lost his left leg and Jessica lost both legs because of the attack. During that time, LeRoy befriended the couple and encouraged them to continue being active.

    “It’s not that we’re just a military family and its military amputees,” said LeRoy, referring to rehabilitation. “If you want to encourage someone and you want to help people and inspire people you’re doing that to everybody.

    Before joining the Army, LeRoy was active in Boy Scouts earning the rank of Eagle Scout in 2009, and ran track in high school. His can-do spirit is evident in his progress as an athlete and veteran.

    “Whenever I talk to an amputee the first thing they try to do is stand up,” said LeRoy. “That’s built into everyone, you get knocked down you get back up. It’s what you’re supposed to do.”

    “It’s a great characteristic of Stefan,” said Katie Smith, LeRoy’s caretaker and girlfriend. “He never focuses on failing. It’s always ‘How can I be better next time?’ There’s never a point when he says I can’t do this.”

    LeRoy proved that he was “handi-capable”, as he and Smith described it, once he received his first pair of running blades, lower-extremity prostheses which allow users to run, sprint and jump. Within a month of receiving the prosthetics LeRoy ran his first 5K run since being injured. Since then he’s ran a second 5K and a half-marathon.

    “I started running and upright cycling but I wouldn’t have started that if I hadn’t kept up my strength and conditioning through hand cycling,” said LeRoy. “There is still a huge adaptive cycling program at WRNMMC and it’s probably the best place to go to learn.”

    Because of his strong will, LeRoy is now skilled in multiple adaptive sports ranging from track and field to swimming, even making the Department of Defense’s 2016 Invictus team where he will compete against other wounded warrior-athletes from around the world in: indoor rowing, road cycling, swimming, track and field. The 2016 Invictus Games are scheduled to take place in Orlando, Florida, May 8-12.

    “It’s not woe is me,” said LeRoy. “This is just the new you.”

    LeRoy hand cycled through the Boston Marathon for the second time in 2015. This year he intends to run the Marathon using his running blades.

    “Losing my legs is not stopping me. Nothing is really holding me back,” said LeRoy. “I will get to everything that I want to do.”

    Smith, who trains with LeRoy, says it means a lot for LeRoy and her to go to all the competitions and runs. “It’s really cool to be there and be part of that,” she adds.

    Recently a four-legged furry companion joined LeRoy through a non-profit organization. LeRoy, Smith and Knoxville, LeRoy’s service dog, will do a lot of traveling this summer, attending the Boston Marathon in April, Invictus Games in May and possibly the 2016 DoD Warrior Games in June. Although LeRoy is keeping a busy schedule this spring, he intends to go back to Santa Rosa during the summer and backpack with his family; the first time in almost two decades the family will go backpacking together again.

    “There’s always a next step,” said LeRoy.



    Date Taken: 03.15.2016
    Date Posted: 03.15.2016 13:46
    Story ID: 192444
    Location: FORT BLISS, TX, US 

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