The US Paralympics website gave a Veteran’s Day tribute to the 19 Service Members competing for spots on the 2014 US Paralympic team in Sochi Russia. Team Semper Fi is proud to be represented by 9 of these amazing athletes:
Picture 1: Sgt Omar Bermejo (single arm amputee) – Nordic/Biathlon
In 2000, 17-year-old Omar Bermejo joined the Marine Corps. “The Marines were my way of life until a motorcycle accident took what I thought was going to be the rest of my life in just a couple of seconds,” he wrote in his blog. Just four months after his right arm was amputated as a result of the accident, he rediscovered sport. “It was time to start dreaming again. Dreaming of becoming a Paralympic cross-country skiing athlete.” He is a member of the 2013-14 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Development Team.
Picture 2: Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Burdick (double leg limb salvage) – Snowboarding
Retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Burdick is one of the top hopefuls for the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team in snowboarding, which will debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Burdick is a member of the 2013-14 U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding National B Team and will compete on the world cup circuit this season. From 2007-10, he deployed once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. It was with one week left of his third deployment that Burdickâs armored vehicle hit a roadside bomb, resulting in serious injuries to both feet.
Picture 3: Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Burton (Visually Impaired) – Nordic/Biathlon
Kevin Burton served with the Navy from 2002-11, retiring as a Petty Officer 1st class. Burton, who has a degenerative eye condition that has left him with just a pinhole of sight, is now aiming for a spot in the biathlon and cross-country skiing competitions at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. A six-time medalist on the world cup circuit, he is a member of the 2013-14 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Development Team.
Picture 6: Lt Dan Cnossen (double above the knee amputee) – Nordic/Biathlon
Navy Lt. Dan Cnossen, who competed in multiple sports at the 2011 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, hopes to make his Paralympic Games debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in biathlon and cross-country skiing. He joined the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing program in 2010. At the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Nordic Skiing World Cup in Cable, Wis., he won four of the 13 medals claimed by Team USA, with two each in cross-country skiing and biathlon. He went on to compete at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Final as well as the world championships. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Cnossen stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, resulting in the amputation of both legs. He was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V (for valor) from the Secretary of the Navy.
Picture 8: Cpl Travis Dodson (double above the knee amputee) – Nordic/Biathlon
Lance Cpl. Travis Dodson served with the Marine Corps from 2005-07. While serving in Haqlaniyah, Iraq, he was injured when an enemy fighter threw what was believed to be a pipe bomb through the window of the building he was in. Both of his legs were later amputated. He is a member of the 2013-14 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Development Team.
Picture 9: Sgt Eric Frazier (Spinal Cord Injury) – Nordic/Biathlon
Eric Frazier earned a wrestling scholarship to Thaddeus Stevens in Lancaster, Pa., but decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps instead. At 20, Frazier completed his first tour in Iraq. While home visiting his biological father, Frazier suffered multiple gunshot wounds with a .45 caliber handgun. He turned to handcycling for rehabilitation. Three months prior to the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, U.S. Paralympic Nordic skiing coaches approached Frazier to ask if he would like to try Nordic skiing. Although he did not make the 2010 team, Frazier went to Vancouver as a spectator. Now he’s a member of the 2013-14 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Development Team with eyes set on Sochi.
Picture 13: Sgt Jon Lujan (Incomplet Spinal Cord Injury) – Alpine Skiing
Jon Lujan, who served in the Marine Corps for nearly eight years, suffered two ruptured discs in his back during his missions in Kuwait. During the surgery to repair his back, his spinal cord was damaged and initially Lujan was left unable to feel either leg. Following the advice of a fellow wounded veteran, Lujan took to sport for rehabilitation, eventually becoming a ski racer. He was named to his first U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team in 2012. In his first season with the team, Lujan earned three NorAm Cup silver medals. He is now attempting to qualify for his first Paralympic Winter Games.
Picture 16: Cpl Paul Schaus – (double above the knee amputee) – Sled Hockey
A Purple Heart recipient, Paul Schaus was injured by an improvised explosive device while serving the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan in 2009. He played two seasons (2010-12) with the USA Warriors, an organization that provides ice hockey programs for individuals who were disabled during service to the United States Armed Forces, before making his national team debut in the 2012-13 season.
Picture 18 – Sgt Josh Sweeney (double above the knee amputee) – Sled Hockey
Retired Marine Josh Sweeney made his debut with the 2011-12 U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. Now in his third season with the team, he is a world champion and a world silver medalist. He hopes to make his Paralympic Winter Games debut in March 2014. Sweeney was a month into his second deployment when a bomb exploded beneath him in Nowzad, Afghanistan, on Oct. 28, 2009. Two MEDEVAC vehicles sent to rescue him both hit improvised explosive devices en route to Sweeney, leaving him to wait two hours before he was transported from the blast site. Both his legs were later amputated.
In addition to this Veteran’s Day tribute, Team Semper Fi athletes have three more stories on the TeamUSA/US Paralympics website:
It’s amazing to see these athletes working so hard to reach their goals. It’s even more amazing to see their international profile growing and how much of a bigger impact they can have inspiring their fellow injured/ill/wounded brothers and sisters to strive for their goals too!
Go Team Semper Fi and Go Team USA!!!