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Dorian Gardner was a Marine Corps sergeant serving in Afghanistan in 2010 when an improvised explosive device took his left eye and left him legally blind.

Immediately after getting evacuated from Delaram, Afghanistan, he was assigned to Wounded Warrior Regiment in Hawaii and, after recovered, he opted to keep in the Marine Corps. The tall, athletic Marine had been a stand out basketball player amongst his peers just before his injury but, with his visual impairment, the game he loved was out of attain. He stated he did not feel he’d compete once again.

“I gave that up, you know, there is not substantially space for basketball … when your depth perception is gone,” Gardner stated.

Immediately after his injury, Gardner stated, a lot of persons told him to take a healthcare retirement and leave the Marine Corps. But, he stated, he had set objectives for himself in the Marines and wasn’t going to let a disability get in his way.

“The Marine Corps is — day in and day out — a challenging go,” Gardner stated, “but undertaking it with restricted vision and possessing to be really reliant on other individuals for help, day to day, produced items a bit tougher. But I was determined to prove to myself and everyone who doubted me that I could nevertheless do this job — that I could nevertheless be a Marine.”

Now a master sergeant assigned to Camp Pendleton, Gardner is not just back to competing — he’s winning medals.

Gardner is amongst the veterans and active duty Marines competing in the Marine Corps Trials, an annual competitors hosted by the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment. Trials had been held at Camp Pendleton final week and Gardner competed in many events, which includes wheelchair rugby.

The game is played on a basketball court, and competitors wheeled themselves up and down it in specially-developed chairs constructed to take a beating — or, to dish them out. Rugby is a notoriously rough sport and, Gardner stated, the game on wheels is no distinctive.

“It is nevertheless a quite rough sport even in the wheelchair,” Gardner stated. “The chairs are developed particularly to take effect. There is defensive chairs (and) there is offensive chairs.”

Wheelchair rugby is played by persons with many disabilities, not just the ones that influence their capacity to stroll or run.

Daniel Norman, a retired Marine who lives in Utah, loves the sport. Norman is a veteran of the trials and previously competed at national and international adaptive sports competitions.

Norman stated that regardless of any disabilities, the competitors do not go simple on one particular a different.

“We’re Marines — we’re competitive by nature,” Norman stated. “We want to win. They are all my good friends (and) I really like them to death, but when they are on an opposite group, we go ham. We go really hard.”

Gardner started competing in 2017 and stated adaptive sports showed him what he is nevertheless capable of.

“I found that there are nevertheless so several items I can do,” Gardner stated. “Immediately after considering to myself, ‘life is more than,’ adaptive sports definitely opened my eyes and showed me there are so several items I could nevertheless do, regardless of my injury.”

Gardner, who is nearing his 20-year mark in the Marines, is having prepared to retire. But, he says, his athletic pursuits are just starting.

“I’m going to be packing it up and retiring following 20 years but that is when the training’s gonna start off,” he stated.

Gardner has a new objective — to compete in the 2024 Summer season Paralympics in Paris.

Competitors who qualify from final week’s trials will be invited to the national Warrior Games exactly where they will compete against adaptive athletes from the other service branches. From there, it really is on to the Invictus Games, an international competitors amongst wounded service members and veteran athletes.

At the trials, Gardner won gold in shot place and archery. Norman took gold in the one hundred meters, energy lifting, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.

The Marines have not however announced which athletes from the trials will be invited to the Warrior Games.

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