By Katie Branham | March 05, 2014, 8:30 a.m. (ET)
Jon Lujan
Alpine skier Jon Lujan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, selected as U.S. flag bearer for Opening Ceremony of Paralympic Winter Games.

SOCHI, Russia – The United States Olympic Committee announced today that alpine skier Jon Lujan (Littleton, Colo.), a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, has been selected as the flag bearer for the U.S. Paralympic Team at the Opening Ceremony for  the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games on March 7. Lujan was chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA athletes.

“Obviously the flag to me represents our country, and ever since we became a country that flag has stood in every battle and every holiday, and it’s draped over the coffins of our fallen military,” Lujan said. “So there’s a lot of meaning behind that flag. To be able to carry it on an international level of this magnitude is unbelievable.”

Lujan served as a Sergeant in the Marine Corps for more than eight and a half years, initially from 1993-97 and again after the September 11, 2001, attacks from 2001-06. During a mission in Iraq in 2003, Lujan ruptured two discs in his back. The surgery to repair the discs in 2005 damaged Lujan’s spinal cord, leaving him with permanent nerve damage and paralysis in his lower legs.

"I'd like to congratulate Jon on this great honor," said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “As a Marine Corps veteran, Jon has given so much of himself on behalf of our country, and he is the perfect person to represent the athletes on the U.S. Paralympic Team, as well as our nation. To watch him wave the stars and stripes will be a tremendous experience for us all.”

This will not be Lujan’s first time carrying the flag in front of a large crowd. In 2003, he carried Old Glory when President George W. Bush visited Camp Pendleton, Calif.

“When the president of the United States salutes the flag that I’m carrying, it means so much,” Lujan said “I have such a deep-rooted love for the country having been in the military, and then being able to carry that flag, it’s a pretty huge honor.”

Lujan is the third consecutive veteran to be selected for the U.S. as the Paralympic Winter Games flag bearer; Army veteran and alpine skier Heath Calhoun, who is Lujan’s roommate in Sochi, carried the flag at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games; and Coast Guard veteran Chris Devlin-Young, also an alpine skier, served as flag bearer at the 2006 Torino Paralympic Winter Games.

Lujan was first named to the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team in 2012, and he has been a top performer for Team USA ever since. Lujan is a four-time national champion, including a downhill title at the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Championships in February. He also earned a bronze medal in giant slalom at the International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing World Cup in Thredbo, Australia, in the fall of 2013.  

Lujan will lead the 80-member U.S. team into the Opening Ceremony on March 7 at Fisht Olympic Stadium. The Opening Ceremony will be live on NBCSN at 11 a.m. ET.

 “My mom and dad and daughter are going to be at Opening Ceremony, they’ll get to see me,” Lujan said. “And then obviously all my friends back in the states are probably going to be watching it on TV, so it’s pretty awesome. I get a little choked up.”

“I’m just going to wave it high, hold it high and be loud and proud.”

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