For U.S. Army Spc. David Snipes, returning from Afghanistan on April 1, 2014 was no April fool's joke. Instead, being reunited with his family in New Jersey was an additional blessing.
While being home on leave, Snipes enjoyed riding out on his dad's motorcycle. That is, until May 19, 2014 when he became a victim of a hit-and-run accident. Being hit on the left side of his body resulted in Snipes having bleeding on his brain, fluid in his lungs, along with a left hand and left arm which would never function again. The accident also left Snipes with permanent nerve.
“Thankfully I was wearing the proper gear and my helmet. I never wanted to wear a helmet before; I never liked it. But now I realize that helmet is what saved my life,” Snipes said.br>
“I was sort of a wild child when I was growing up so when my fianc� called my mom at 6 a.m. to tell her about the accident, my mom said, ‘Okay, let me know when he gets out of the hospital.' She didn't realize how bad I had been hurt until my fianc� called a second time and the doctor got on the phone asking my mom if I had a living will,” said Snipes.
Snipes recalls the moment he regained consciousness in the hospital, “When I woke up, I saw my dad and started crying because I thought I was in trouble for wrecking his bike, but he wasn't worried about the bike at all. But, my mom, we have a connection. When she came in the room and I looked like I was hurting, she was hurting. I didn't want to see her struggle through this so I remained optimistic by joking around all the time. My family was the biggest piece to my recovery.”
“My accident was a bittersweet moment. Professionally, my military career is over,” said Snipes. “I'm an 88 Mike (motor transport operator) and the Army's not going to let me drive vehicles with one arm. I can't even work out like I used to and I loved being in the gym. On the other hand, at least I am still alive.”
Snipes began the road to recovery by starting physical therapy and after a while, he was asked if he wanted to go skydiving. “I always wanted to learn how to skydive but never thought I'd be able to like this,” said Snipes. “Then I was introduced to a reconditioning program called Operation Enduring Warrior. They help you become physically active again through adaptive sports and now I'm starting to find even more resources like OEW.”
“Before now, I didn't really train at all for the DoD Warrior Games. I just started cycling and they put my name in for regionals,” said Snipes. “I did well enough to go to the Army Trials. They (coaches) explained to me what it (DoD Warrior Games) was and asked me what event I was interested in. When they told me all the stuff they had, I said, ‘I'll try everything.' If it's possible for me to do it, I'll try it all.”
June 16, 2016 - U.S Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of US Army Medical Command, Lieutenant General Nadja West, congratulates U.S. Army Spc. David Snipes, of Walter Reed National Medical Military Center, Bethesda, Maryland, after completing a race at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games, in Shea Stadium at the United States Military Academy, at West Point, New York. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Ian Ryan)
WWhile Snipes is competing in track, field, cycling and air rifle, he said his goal is to bring home a gold medal in cycling. “There are three riders here on the Army team that have already beaten me before but I'm a much better rider now so I'd like us (Team Army) to take 1st, 2nd and 3rd place,” said Snipes. “When I'm not participating in the games, I'll definitely be supporting Team Army.” (Snipes did when the gold medal.)
Since Snipes has been here training at West Point, New York he has realized this type of environment is his ideal setting. “I'm getting married in November 2016 and I want to buy a house in upstate New York, maybe in a little town called Goshen,” Snipes said. “I like that town and I'll be close to my mom then.”br>
“I always figured I was a resilient person,” added Snipes. “I don't downplay the fact that I've been through a very traumatic experience but it feels good to realize that even though I have been through this traumatic experience, life still goes on
He has a message he wants to share with others who will listen. “Prior to my accident, I was always independent,” explained Snipes. “But after my accident, the biggest thing is to always surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable for being great.”
More Photos of the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games
By U.S. Army Spc. Angelique Jefferson, Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks
Provided through DVIDS
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