US military veterans compete in Paralympics

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

US vs. Italy
Team USA lets Italy know that no matter who wins or loses, it’s all about being a good sport and enjoying the Olympics.

At the Sochi Paralympics, which allows disabled Olympians to compete against one another in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, wheelchair curling, and ice sledge hockey, the US has landed 7 medals already! They’re currently tied for 2nd with the Ukraine for total medals, while Russia’s in the lead with 24.

This year, the US Paralympic team has an inspiring collection of military members, with more than 20% of the 80-person group made up of veterans.

Josh Sweeney, for example, is a retired Marine Corps sergeant who lost both his legs after being injured while serving in Afghanistan. That didn’t stop him, though, from pursuing his passion for ice hockey. Now, he’s helped lead the US Paralympic sled hockey team in a 5-1 victory against Italy. The event, which allows Olympians to push themselves forward on sleds, can get very competitive and intense.

The US sled hockey team, which has 4 military vets and won a gold medal in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, also includes Marine Corps veteran Paul Schaus, Army veteran Rico Roman, and Army sergeant Jen Yung Lee. These brave warriors all suffered leg injuries and amputations while serving overseas.

Jon Lujan, an alpine skier and retired Marine Corps sergeant, says the Paralympics are a perfect place for veterans to showcase their skills. “I think the advantages we have is that we already have the drive and determination,” he explains, “and people don’t need to tell us where to be, what to do and how to do it.”

Images courtesy of Sochi 2014.