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During his last deployment to Iraq, Army Sergeant Michael Finlay suffered a traumatic brain injury which causes seizures.  He also suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome. He says that  riding a bike is “a prefect escape from everything.  I have a great time doing the triathlons and I am looking forward to competing in more this season. The goal is to complete an Ironman in 2012.”

Juliet Madsen was a medivac medic in Iraq and was injured, including a traumatic brain injury from a bomb blast.  She suffered through a stroke and several surgeries, but has come a long way back to her current condition.  She participated in her triathlon in 2011 and is hooked.  Even though she was slowed this season when she was knocked off her bike and left in the street by a collision with skateboarders, but she is one tough girl and is on the mend. Her plans for 2012 include the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon.  Juliet also makes artistic quilts (she learned how in rehab, I think), to raise money for veteran organizations, one of which is hanging in the Library of Congress.  Here is a link to her quilting website:  http://www.strokeofluckquilting.com/page/page/4732027.htm

Army Sergeant Anthony Rico was on a foot patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan.  One of his squads were ambushed, and during the ensuing fire fight, while charging up the mountain towards the enemy, he was shot by an enemy sniper.  He was pulled out of the line of fire and lay bleeding in the mountains for a few hours until the fight was over.  The round entered his hip and exited near his spine.  The doctors were surprised that he was able to move his legs, a few centimeters difference and he would “have been in a wheel chair for the rest of my life”. His goal is to complete an Ironman in 2012.

Captain Arthur Rizer deployed to Iraq in 2005 in Fallujah. He suffered a traumatic brain injury from an IED blast. He suffers from a significant hearing loss which “will likely continue to get worse until I am deaf”, PTSD, and chronic headache disorder.  He has found that exercise actually help him overcome his symptoms.  His goal of competing in triathlon will motivate him to keep up the hard work.

Sergeant Tarus Nelson served as a US Army CombatEngineer for four years. He was injured in a convoy accident which left him with a shattered left arm, two broken collar bones, fractured skull, broken jaw, severed tongue and internal injuries. Tarus was an avid athlete before his injuries and has used training for triathlon as a way to recapture that passion for sport. He has completed several triathlons, including the Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3, and in 2011 will compete in Ironman Louisville.

Petty Officer Kevin McNease served in the US Navy for 20 years as a Rescue Swimmer. Cumulative trauma left him with a 50% disability after surgeries to his hip and shoulders. After not running for 5 years, set a goal of doing a triathlon and has since completed races at every distance including Ironman. Kevin also competed in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championships in Hawaii in 2010.

Why TriSoldier? By Founder and Executive Director Jeff Trout

As a former soldier, I was moved by these and other stories from soldiers that were wounded and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.  One soldier in particular, Ted Wade, a Sergeant from the 82nd Airborne Division, who had lost an arm and suffered traumatic brain injuries made a statement that stuck with me “Sports is, well, integral to the life of most American boys and men, especially soldiers. People don’t know what it’s like to have that taken away from you.  I meet so many veterans for whom losing the ability to run and jump…well, they feel as if they may as well not even be living”.

After reading that paragraph, I knew I had to do something.  As Captain Rizer put it not long ago, “there are tons of people that put yellow ribbon stickers on the back of their car and say, I support my troops (and usually its a magnet – so it’s not ever permanent), you really put your money where your mouth is.”  That is what TriSoldier strives to accomplish, to make a lasting difference.

The numbers of young, athletic individuals who suddenly find themselves disabled –  with traumatic brain injury, paralyzed, missing a limb, or blind are unfortunately growing.  However, that doesn’t mean they can’t return to their former activity level, and even set a goal of competing in athletics again.

Donating my time and coaching is the easy part.  But, I’ve met so many people who don’t know how or where to help and coaches who would gladly donate their time in their local area if asked.  So, in April of 2009, Cadence Performance Lab formed the TriSoldier Project.  We are working to raise awareness, set up a network of local coaches across the country who will donate their time to helping disabled veterans any way they can and provide grants to disabled athletes to get them to the race. With a little coaching, we hope that these athletes will then become role models and coaches for others whose lives have been forever altered so that we can live our lives in safety.

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