CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - “Most of the time we're told what we
can't do anymore or we're going to have trouble doing this or that.
We're told that you shouldn't, you can't and you won't ... I loved
running, and still do. It was my stress reliever, if I can't do that
...Then what is there left for me to do?” Corporal Gabriel R. Gehr.
Gehr, a Marine with Wounded Warrior Battalion West, Alpha
Company and a Delphos, Ohio, native joined the Marine Corps May 20,
2012 as a generator engineer.
Standing at more than 6 feet
tall and weighing around 170 pounds, Gabriel R. Gehr's love for
sport began as a linebacker for his high school team. But as he
progressed onto college, Gehr began devoting himself to a new
passion – running.
March 9, 2015 - Corporal Gabriel R. Gehr, a Marine with Wounded Warrior Battalion West, Alpha Company and a Delphos, Ohio native joined the Marine Corps May 20, 2012, as a generator engineer. On November 20, 2013, exactly a year and six months after he joined, Gehr found himself in Afghanistan, fortifying a forward operating base against hostile forces. While trying to ensure the safety of everyone on the base, Gehr was hit by an anti-tank rocket, causing shrapnel to permanently embed into his left side and leg. In October 2014, Gehr unknowingly opened a door to discovering a new love
... at the 2015 Marine Corps Trials. (Image created by USA
Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. April Price)
“I wish I would have joined cross country to experience
some long distance, but I have to say I love running 5ks,”
said Gehr, “I would run every day, especially around the Del
Mar. I remember putting on my headphones and just going
until I couldn't anymore. Running gave me a sense of
freedom, a sense of purpose."
Looking for a new
challenge, the Delphos, Ohio, native joined the Marine Corps
as a generator engineer on May 20, 2013. It was this
decision that caused Gehr's life to change forever. On
November 20, 2013, exactly a year and six months after he
joined, Gehr found himself in Afghanistan, fortifying a
forward operating base against hostile forces. While trying
to ensure the safety of everyone on the base, Gehr was hit
by an anti-tank rocket, causing shrapnel to permanently
embed into his left side and leg.
“For the longest time, I felt broken and useless
after the incident,” said Gehr. “I just wanted to do things
on my own and help myself. It didn't help to have people
feel sorry for me as if I couldn't do anything on my own,
because after a while I started to believe that I wasn't
When Gehr lost his ability to run, he said he
also lost a part of himself. This was the most stressful
moment in his life, but he couldn't even turn to his go-to
stress relieving activity – running.
“It was like my
life ended for me, I mean hey, it was pretty close to it
being over literally, but to not be able to run after is
what really made me depressed,” said Gehr. “I'm to a point
where I can get around, but every time I try to run, even a
little, the pain is too unbearable.”
Gehr was at a
point in his life where he couldn't get through simple,
everyday tasks without pain medication. He says that the
thought of ever getting past his current condition seemed
like a far-off dream.
“You know, I would wake up
every morning, eat breakfast, take my medication, go to
medical appointments and repeat day in and day out,” says
Gehr. “I felt like a robot, that there was no hope for
One day, he realized that his routine
was getting old. He needed a change, and that change came
just in time.
In October 2014, Gehr unknowingly
opened a door to discovering a new love — at the 2015 Marine
“I've heard about it before, but this
is my first year attending. It's definitely a mood booster
to have all of these events available,” said Gehr. “You
never know how important it is to make a choice for yourself
until it's taken away from you.”
Gehr decided to
participate in wheelchair basketball, seated volleyball and
his new favorite, swimming.
“I picked wheelchair
basketball and volleyball because they seemed interesting,”
said Gehr I knew I wouldn't have too much trouble making
plays, so I solely focused on the team aspect of the sport.
I would never have though that I would enjoy [swimming] the
way I do now.”
According to Gehr he said he would not
have chosen swimming to compete in, because it was not part
of his everyday life.
“There's no other way to
describe the feeling you get when you're in the water,” said
Gehr. “It blocks out everything around you and you can
solely just focus on yourself. When I'm in the water, it's
as though I can put all of my everyday problems behind me
or. It's just you, your lane and the water. Taking a chance
to experience something beyond what you are used to can
prove to be a difficult task, even to the bravest of souls.
The thought of failure or not being good enough often clouds
the mind, making the final decision to go for it, seem
“I always tell my athletes, ‘You want to
get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don't go back to
what you use to do, you know you can do it and you can do it
well, so try something else,' and it usually gets them in an
opened mind set to try new things,” said Bobbie Brewer a
swim coach from Cape Girardeau Missouri. ”In no way, shaped
or form have I've ever been through what these athletes
have, but I have experienced a life changing injury that
makes you question yourself and your abilities afterward."
Gehr said he had his doubts about swimming at first, but
gave it a chance anyway. Using the Marine Corps Trails offer
to train for the events. He trained for swimming five months
prior to coming out to Camp Pendleton, California.
“Swimming wasn't my strong suit, I was actually surprised
how bad I was when I stepped in the pool for training, but I
was determined to get better,” said Gehr. “Giving up
definitely wasn't an option, especially since I've already
signed myself up for it. To my surprise, the more time I
spent in the water, the more I grew to love it. As my love
grew for it, I became better at it.”
Each Marine is
instilled with the Marine Corps values, honor, courage and
commitment. It's been drilled into them since the very
beginning of their basic training as recruits. Upholding the
pride in these values carries out on and off duty.
have no former military background, so it's a new experience
to deal with these Marines,” said Brewer. “The thing about
the Marines is that they push. They want to push and we, as
coaches, have to dial them down a bit. I wish I could take
some of this perseverance back with me to some of my
swimmers back home, but to see these people going on after
what they've been through is definitely a blessing.”
The Marine Corps Trails aid to push both the Marines and
athletes to showcase abilities they still have or never
realize they had within themselves. It allows each Marine
and athlete to be around their peers who have similar traits
and build different relationships amongst one another.
“I'm grateful to be here at Marine Corps Trails 2015. It
shows me that I am still capable of doing things. of doing
anything. It doesn't matter if I win or lose, it's the
experience and memories I take away that will stay with me
through years to come.”
By U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. April Price
The U.S. Marines
Comment on this article