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A Most Heroic Ride: Military Connection

 

Military Connection: toran

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Marine Sgt. Toran Gaal, a corporal infantry rifleman in 15 Charlie Company with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was badly injured four years ago during his second deployment to Afghanistan. An IED claimed his left leg and severely damaged his right leg. He also sustained a crush injury to the left side of his head and lost part of his brain.

Gaal is currently on a 3,000 mile trek, using a hand cycle, across the U.S. Brian Riley is his one-man support crew.

Riley, a fellow Marine, was on foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2011 when machine gun fire penetrated his left leg, which had to be amputated.

A former athlete, Gaal spent two and a half years in physical therapy at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. It was at Freedom Station, where veterans re-acclimate to civilian life, that he met Riley.

Although they didn’t much care for each other at the beginning, they shared a common goal to compete in adaptive sports. They had something else in common: a desire to support other veterans and their families the way they had been supported by the Semper Fi Fund.

The two veterans began planning a coast-to-coast trip, where Gaal would ride an adapted bike, and Riley would provide vehicular support.

Their journey began on June 1st in San Diego, with plans to arrive in Arlington, Virginia, on August 2nd , where they will visit the Iwo Jima and Marine Corps memorials. At the end of the ride, Gaal will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

To date, Gaal has raised $35,000 of his $40,000 goal, but he wants to raise more.

“I challenge every person in each city we visit to donate $1,” Gaal said.

“Not just for us — for the next generation of warriors who are going to have to endure the hardships we did for recovery.” As Gaal’s website says, “The only limits in life are those we set for ourselves.”

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

A Most Heroic Ride: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Grace on the Field

doc

By Debbie Gregory.

Becoming a professional athlete takes a lot of skill and determination. To serve in the Armed Forces, skill and determination are just a few of the qualities needed to succeed. What happens when both career choices come together?

Daniel “Doc” Jacobs served in the U.S. Navy as a Corpsman attached to the Marines. Recently, he tried out for the Detroit Tigers baseball team. Jacobs, joined on the field by a slew of other hopeful chasing their dream to play for a professional team, trained for weeks. With so many players being evaluated, quick decisions have to be made, quashing more than a few players’ dreams, their professional careers reduced to just a few photos.

But Jacobs had made an impression. As he packed his gear, Tigers officials took the time to thank him for trying out, and for serving his country. He says the Tigers organization have been open and welcoming as an organization, something he appreciates.

At the ripe age of 29, Jacobs knew he would be a long shot to make the team. However, long shots don’t really mean anything to an Iraq War Veteran, who also happens to be an amputee.

Almost ten years ago, Jacobs was lying in a hospital bed in Bethesda after he was injured by an improvised explosive device. He lost his left leg,  the toes on his right foot, and two fingertips on his left hand. He wasn’t expected to make a flight hope, then wasn’t expected to walk again, and then wasn’t expected to serve again. He did all of those things, and more. Jacobs says, “I’m just blessed to be here. Any day you can get out and play baseball is a good day, right?”

He adds that any time someone tells him he can’t do something, it just fuels his fire, “Once you get something in your mind, you’re pretty determined and you just go for it.”

Now discharged, Jacobs is trying to show other Veterans what athletics has helped him achieve. From hand-cycling the Miami Marathon in 2007, to running the Detroit half marathon on his prosthetic, and even trying out for the Dodgers and White Sox, Jacobs is unstoppable.

“I’m heavily involved in the nonprofit work just trying to get out there and get Veterans out in more productive, heathier aspects to living their life.” Jacobs says.

“Because sitting on the couch and feeling sorry for yourself, the survivor’s guilt and the stages of grieving, it’s terrible. Once you get inside your head, it’s a hard place to get out of. I just feel that if I can get out here and play baseball and get my story out there, then it can reach out to somebody else.”

He didn’t leave with a contract, but Jacobs, along with his cause, have been noticed. At the end of the day, this young man has displayed extreme skill, determination, and grace under pressure, both on the battlefield and on the baseball field.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Grace on the Field: By Debbie Gregory