Some of us will never be given the opportunity to represent our country. Andrew Soule (Pearland, Texas) has the privilege of representing the United States twice: as a service member and a Paralympic hopeful.
Soule was attending classes at Texas A&M the day the Twin Towers fell. Not enjoying school and wanting to give back to his country in some way, Soule joined the Army.
"After September 11 happened at the end of the school year, I decided I wanted to take a different direction for a while and that's when I joined the Army," said Soule.
After completing Army Basic Combat Training, Soule was soon deployed to Afghanistan. While stationed in Afghanistan, an improvised explosive device detonated by Soule's Humvee resulting in the amputation of both of his legs above the knee.
Soule spent the next few years in rehabilitation at Brook Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. During his rehab, he began looking for ways to keep active.
"We had a number of opportunities (at Brook Army Medical Center) to get involved in various sports through some local organizations," said Soule. "One of those sports we got involved with was handcycling."
While Soule was participating in a bike ride in San Antonio in 2005, he met the Director of Wood River Ability Program, Mark Mast, who encouraged Soule to get involved with cross country skiing.
Soule had never even tried cross country skiing prior to his injury. In fact, he had very little skiing experience.
"I had been downhill skiing a couple of times, but that was it," said Soule.
A year after attending the camp he moved to Sun Valley, Idaho to begin to train full-time at the Sun Valley Nordic Center.
He was hooked and with impressive results at the 2007 U.S. Championships and two consecutive top-10 finishes in his first World Cup races, Soule earned a spot on the U.S. Ski Team. Soule would represent his country once more. This time he would do it as an athlete.
"It feels great to be able to be on a U.S. elite sport team," said Soule. "It's a very different sort of thing, but it is something I can take and continue to challenge myself in a different way."
Now he is setting his sights on representing the United States at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver next March.
"This upcoming season, with it being a Paralympic year, everything is leading up to that," said Soule. "My goals are to have good finishes at the Paralympics. I just want to train as hard and as well as I can and show significant improvement to finish near the top of the field at the Games."
Soule's life training for the Paralympics resembles that of his life as a soldier: regimented.
"I will train about 600 hours this year," said Soule. "That breaks down into 6 days a week of constant training, most two-a-days, with about three high intensity sections in between."
Soule spent more than four years in the Army and has spent the last four years on the mountain, never once forgetting the country he was representing.
"It feels great to do something outstanding and to still be representing the United States," said Soule.