Gold medalist Brad Snyder, his guide Greg Billington, Kyle Coon and his guide Andy Potts celebrate after finishing the men's PTVI triathlon at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 28, 2021 in Tokyo.
When terrorists flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and another plane was downed in a Shanksville, Pennsylvania, field on Sept. 11, 2001, Brad Snyder was a student at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Snyder immediately realized that his future would include military service. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy and later served in Afghanistan, where in 2011 he lost his eyesight to an improvised explosive device blast.
The former Naval Academy swim captain found his way into the U.S. Paralympic program and has now earned six gold medals and a pair of silver medals in two sports across three Games. At the recent Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, he became the first American man – disabled or able-bodied – to earn a gold medal in an Olympic or Paralympic triathlon when he won the PTVI event.
“The military does a lot to make you deal with challenges,” Snyder had told TeamUSA.org the year after he was wounded. “You move around all the time and have to make new friends. You have to carry out difficult tasks and learn how to communicate. It is a very intense skill set.
“So, with my blindness it was just a new challenge for me. It’s just a new problem set. This is just the next thing to overcome.”
Snyder always seems to seek new challenges. He and wife Sara just announced that they’re expecting a baby girl in March. Meanwhile, Snyder is pursuing a PhD in the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs with the intention of returning to teach at the Naval Academy.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Snyder was one of 21 military veterans, including three active-duty service members, to represent the U.S. at the recent Paralympic Games in Tokyo. They included 14 Army veterans, four Navy veterans, two Marine Corps veterans and one Air Force veteran.
As another Veterans Day is observed today, it’s appropriate to recognize the contributions made by Snyder and other military veterans to the Olympic and Paralympic movements after they had answered their nation’s call and served so honorably.