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Blinded Veteran Rejects 'Victim Mentality,' Turns Swim Champ

Image: Blinded Veteran Rejects 'Victim Mentality,' Turns Swim Champ

Brad Snyder waits for his heat in the men's 400-meter free during the U.S. Paralympics Team Trials in Charlotte, N.C. Snyder, a Navy veteran, was blinded after he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

By    |   Tuesday, 18 Oct 2016 05:18 PM

A Navy veteran blinded in an explosion in Afghanistan tells Newsmax TV he never gave up hope of living a full and productive life and went onto win five gold medals for swimming in the Paralympic Games.

And Brad Snyder says he pulled off the extraordinary comeback as a tribute to a close friend who had been blown up in Iraq earlier.

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Snyder, 32, was an EOD technician deployed with a SEAL team in September 2011, when he and other soldiers were helping evacuate two critically-injured Afghans who'd stepped on an improvised explosive device in Kandahar.

"I stepped on another one about a meter away," Snyder said Tuesday to Steve Malzberg on "America Talks Live."

"What saved my life basically is that the explosion occurred just slightly in front of me as opposed to beneath me and I was able to walk away from that blast. But unfortunately lose my vision as a result."

Snyder — author of the new book "Fire in My Eyes: An American Warrior's Journey from Being Blinded on the Battlefield to Gold Medal Victory" — said the next thing he remembers is waking up in Walter Reed Hospital.

"I had a very difficult time orienting myself. I was on copious amounts of pain killing medication and sleep-aid medication and when I first woke up I had a tube down my throat," said Snyder, who was eventually weaned-off the drugs.

"I was able to kind of rapidly reconcile what had happened … My job was basically to seek out explosives and attempt to render them safe. So I was well aware of the risks of what might happen."

Two years earlier, Snyder told Malzberg, his good friend Tyler Trahan had been killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

"He came back to the U.S. in a coffin draped with a flag on top of it. He's now buried in the ground near where his mother lives," Snyder said.

"I didn't come back in a coffin, I came back with four limbs that work, a heart that works, a brain that works, and a family that loves me, and a whole lifetime of opportunity ahead of me.

"I really viewed it as somewhat selfish to indulge in a victim mentality … especially in comparison to my friend Tyler."

So the Nevada-born Snyder made a choice to excel in honor of his slain pal.

"I decided that I needed to embrace everything I had as opposed to focus on the things I didn't. I needed a way to show people that," he said.

"A lot of people wanted to put me in a victim box at that particular time. A lot of people were very negatively impacted by the news of my injury and the images of me in the hospital with stitches across my face and things like that.

"I wanted to, as quickly as possible, demonstrate a positive narrative and swimming was just an opportunity that was presented to me."

Redeveloping the skills he used as captain of the swim team during his time at the U.S. Naval Academy, Snyder was soon splashing down the pool lanes like a human fish.

He was so good, he qualified for the U.S. Paralympic team and competed at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London and the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio — winning a total of five gold medals and two silver medals.

He is the world record holder among blind athletes in the 100-meter freestyle event.

In addition, Snyder took home four gold medals for swimming and three gold medals for track and field events at the May 2012 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs.

"I never could have imagined what it would become. It really was just an opportunity to show folks I'm not going to be a victim, and it became something so much more," Snyder said.

Snyder's book, written with Tom Sileo, is published by Da Capo Press.

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A Navy veteran blinded in an explosion in Afghanistan tells Newsmax TV he never gave up hope of living a full and productive life and went onto win five gold medals for swimming in the Paralympic Games.
brad snyder, paralympian, swimmer, blind, navy seal
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2016-18-18
Tuesday, 18 Oct 2016 05:18 PM
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