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    A Soldier who lost his sight says adaptive sports brought him back to life.

    2024 Army Trials

    Photo By Spc. James Dickson | U.S. Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Henry Escobedo, right, practices sprinting with his...... read more read more



    Story by MaryTherese Griffin 

    Army Recovery Care Program

    FALLS CHURCH, Va.- John Lennon famously said, “You won’t get anything unless you have the vision to imagine it.” Retired Sgt. 1st Class Henry Escobedo has that vision now, but it took him a while to get there.

    Escobedo is visually impaired and shares his road to the Warrior Games that started when he returned from his second deployment in 2010. “Through my deployments, I suffered concussions. After my second deployment, I had slight pain and dryness in my eyes, so like most things, you don’t seek medical help right away because you think it's not that bad.”

    The Indirect Infantry Fireman could tell the situation was worsening, so he went to the doctor. “I started noticing that my vision was fading in my right eye. I went to the doctor, and the optometrist said my eye as a whole was healthy, but there was no reason my vision was fading.” Escobedo couldn’t make out letters on his next eye test.

    “After three years of bouncing around from optometrist to ophthalmologist to neuropathologist to a specialist, one of the premier specialists here in Houston said what I had was a rare disease that links to the optic nerve.” Doctors confirmed he has a genetic mutation called Leber’s Optic Neuropathy.

    “I asked if this would have happened if I hadn’t deployed and wasn’t injured, and they said it would not. I am a carrier, but due to the concussion, it was triggered. I was like no way, are you kidding me?”

    In sheer disbelief, Escobedo could feel his world imploding. “I had planned on making a lifelong career in the Army. Like anyone who plans for the future, I wanted to reach certain goals and positions, so when that came to a halt, my journey to today began. Not only did I lose my career, I also lost my independence and lifestyle due to my disability.”

    He medically retired in July 2014 and said his world was dark. “It was tough and rough. I took it hard. I wanted to retire as a Sgt. Major and have another three duty stations. I became very depressed; I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I became very friendly with alcohol, which didn’t help. I had suicidal ideation because I felt useless. I felt like a burden to others because I couldn’t do anything at first without them. Just being in that world of darkness where I am not seeing any positivity or not even optimism - I just let myself go mentally, physically, and emotionally,” said Escobedo.

    His wife, Myra, also an Army Veteran, was a positive source for him. “I am beyond blessed to have my wife. She has been my solid rock. My whole family’s support was great. They would tell me this is just a setback.”
    Escobedo eventually had an epiphany. “I was focusing on the problem instead of the solution. Then I got into adaptive sports, which was my coming back to life.”

    He says once he started getting the proper therapy at the VA and becoming more independent, it was better to get back into the world. “I went to the recreational center in Houston, and they had beep ball, an adaptive version of baseball for the blind. I made a team, and we even went to the World Series of Beep Ball. I wasn’t the best at it, and I knew it, so I needed to find other things I could be more competitive in.”

    He and Myra began researching other opportunities and learned about Warrior Games a few years ago. “I’ve made it my mission to be able to compete at Warrior Games on Team Army!” Mission accomplished! Escobedo made Team Army and will compete at this year’s Warrior Games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando June 21-30th.

    “It means a lot to me because I took it hard when I retired from the Army. It wasn’t what I wanted, but being told welcome to the team on Team Army is the best feeling. I will proudly wear that yellow and black!”

    He is excited that his wife, 18-year-old son, and 10-year-old daughter will be there to cheer him on as he competes in track, cycling, rowing, and field events. “Cycling is my jam! It feels good feeling the wind hit me in the face. The speed and intensity are cool. I want to go fast! Come watch me!” Escobedo will cycle with his sighted pilot, Daniel, at the games.

    When Escobedo imagines not having adaptive sports to help him, he unabashedly explains how he would not be where he is today. “ Not having adaptive sports would hinder my rehabilitation and recovery because it helped me so much, and it helped my family in the long run. If I’m recovered and healing, I will be a good person and live my life the best way I can.”

    Besides the competition, he looks forward to the camaraderie and having fun with his teammates. He says if he could share encouragement for anyone going through a health crisis, it’s this: “Take a deep breath, analyze the situation, keep calm, seek assistance, and make the solution a priority rather than dwelling on the problem. Use your resources; you will concur!



    Date Taken: 05.26.2024
    Date Posted: 05.28.2024 15:34
    Story ID: 472281
    Location: US

    Web Views: 70
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