Monday, February 09, 2009


The next time you think you're having a bad day because you're stuck in traffic or facing a deadline at work, the story of Captain Ivan Castro should help keep things in their proper perspective. Castro--a member of the Army's Special Forces who was blinded in a mortar attack in Iraq--was profiled in the February 9th issue of National Review by Jay Nordlinger:

Last year, Ivan Castro ran five marathons. (Best time: 4 hours, 11 minutes. He hopes to break the four-hour barrier this year.) He also did a triathlon. And climbed Grays Peak in Colorado (14,270 ft.). He lives life with gusto, whether running a marathon or visiting a museum: "I went to the Air Force Museum in Dayton. I didn't see it with my eyes, but they let me put my hands on the aircraft. Incredible." At Fort Bragg, he oversees the Spanish-language lab and carries out various administrative and logistical tasks, "making sure that soldiers are ready to deploy."

He wanted to command an A-team, but "that wasn't meant to be, so maybe, by taking this job here, I can clear somebody from having to do this job," and let such a person "do the things that I wanted to do: go out and lead." (Have you heard anything nobler than that lately?) "Right now, my main focus is what I can do to help other service members, and anyone else. It's not about Ivan."

He speaks before groups all over the country: various associations and organizations. He does a lot of teaching, too, particularly of those who face severe challenges, physical and mental. And he wants to accept no limitations. "If someone tells me I can't do something, I have to keep myself from punching him in the nose. Instead of saying that I can't do something, let's figure out a way for me to do it."

Not that it's not a struggle at times:

Castro has what he calls his "demons in the darkness," or "demons in the closet." And "the closet is my brain. I don't see anything. I'm totally blind. I have no light perception. And when the demons want to take over, as soon as they try to, I try to keep them out. I think about all the things I'm grateful for: my wife, my son, the Lord above, His mission for me." There are days "when I walk into the wall, both literally and figuratively. I try to take a step back and not get angry and figure out a way to go around things."

And "you know the best thing about being blind?" (I couldn't imagine what the answer would be.) "I saw for 39 years. So I was able to see the world for 39 years. I've traveled around the world. I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good thing about now is: Everything is beautiful, in my mind. The grass is always green. There's never graffiti on the walls. There's no trash. Everybody looks good--everybody's in shape, everybody's a movie star or rock star." And race is out the window: "There's no brown, white, or black."

A visit with Ivan Castro will teach you, or remind you, not to complain. It will remind you what a free people owes its warriors. And it will remind you to be in awe of those who do the awe-inspiring.

Where do we find such men?

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