Dorian Gardner was a Marine Corps sergeant serving in Afghanistan in 2010 when an improvised explosive device took his left eye and left him legally blind.
Soon after becoming evacuated from Delaram, Afghanistan, he was assigned to Wounded Warrior Regiment in Hawaii and, as soon as recovered, he opted to keep in the Marine Corps. The tall, athletic Marine had been a stand out basketball player amongst his peers just before his injury but, with his visual impairment, the game he loved was out of attain. He mentioned he did not consider he’d compete once more.
“I gave that up, you know, there is not considerably area for basketball … when your depth perception is gone,” Gardner mentioned.
Soon after his injury, Gardner mentioned, a lot of men and women told him to take a health-related retirement and leave the Marine Corps. But, he mentioned, he had set ambitions for himself in the Marines and wasn’t going to let a disability get in his way.
“The Marine Corps is — day in and day out — a hard go,” Gardner mentioned, “but carrying out it with restricted vision and possessing to be incredibly reliant on other folks for help, day to day, produced issues a bit tougher. But I was determined to prove to myself and everyone who doubted me that I could nevertheless do this job — that I could nevertheless be a Marine.”
Now a master sergeant assigned to Camp Pendleton, Gardner is not just back to competing — he’s winning medals.
Gardner is amongst the veterans and active duty Marines competing in the Marine Corps Trials, an annual competitors hosted by the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment. Trials had been held at Camp Pendleton final week and Gardner competed in quite a few events, such as wheelchair rugby.
The game is played on a basketball court, and competitors wheeled themselves up and down it in specially-made chairs constructed to take a beating — or, to dish them out. Rugby is a notoriously rough sport and, Gardner mentioned, the game on wheels is no distinctive.
“It really is nevertheless a fairly rough sport even in the wheelchair,” Gardner mentioned. “The chairs are made especially to take effect. There is defensive chairs (and) there is offensive chairs.”
Wheelchair rugby is played by men and women with many disabilities, not just the ones that influence their capacity to stroll or run.
Daniel Norman, a retired Marine who lives in Utah, loves the sport. Norman is a veteran of the trials and previously competed at national and international adaptive sports competitions.
Norman mentioned that regardless of any disabilities, the competitors never go uncomplicated on a single a further.
“We’re Marines — we’re competitive by nature,” Norman mentioned. “We want to win. They are all my pals (and) I appreciate them to death, but when they are on an opposite group, we go ham. We go really hard.”
Gardner started competing in 2017 and mentioned adaptive sports showed him what he is nevertheless capable of.
“I found that there are nevertheless so quite a few issues I can do,” Gardner mentioned. “Soon after considering to myself, ‘life is more than,’ adaptive sports actually opened my eyes and showed me there are so quite a few issues I could nevertheless do, regardless of my injury.”
Gardner, who is nearing his 20-year mark in the Marines, is obtaining prepared to retire. But, he says, his athletic pursuits are just starting.
“I’m going to be packing it up and retiring right after 20 years but that is when the training’s gonna get started,” he mentioned.
Gardner has a new target — to compete in the 2024 Summer season Paralympics in Paris.
Competitors who qualify from final week’s trials will be invited to the national Warrior Games exactly where they will compete against adaptive athletes from the other service branches. From there, it really is on to the Invictus Games, an international competitors amongst wounded service members and veteran athletes.
At the trials, Gardner won gold in shot place and archery. Norman took gold in the one hundred meters, energy lifting, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.
The Marines have not however announced which athletes from the trials will be invited to the Warrior Games.