Faces of OUR Freedom: I wish that everyone could have the opportunity to meet Anthony Radetic. I feel very honored that I got the opportunity to spend time with him on the Never Quit Challenge (NQC) this past month. Let me introduce you (the best way I know how) to one of the most remarkable, funny, inspiring men that I have ever met. Mr. Anthony Radetic.
I had no idea what to expect when I was headed to Key West to meet “Team Boot Campaign.” All I had was a few pieces of paper that told little stories about the (5) guys that were on our team, and that I was about to meet. I will admit that I was invited to NQC mere days before departure, and we were in the middle of Labor Day weekend so my mind was on relaxation. I did not do my research as I should have and I walked in – blind for the most part. I knew the guy’s names and I knew “little” stories about them but I didn’t know their faces.
The night that everyone arrived in Key West we all met up for dinner. 20 people were sitting around a bunch of tables, eating pizza, and going around in a circle giving an explanation of who they were and why they were there. As each person said their name, military affiliation, status etc. I was sitting there trying to listen for our guy’s names so I wouldn’t look like an idiot when I finally got the opportunity to meet them face to face. Anthony was one of the last guys to give the group his info. Of course, by this time I had already said who I was and why I was there…. so when I heard him say, “Anthony Radetic,” I knew who he finally was! He looked over at me with this huge grin on his face and I knew instantly that we would be friends. He has such a warm, fun, inviting smile.
As the week progressed I tried to put myself in little situations where I could get to know him better, where I could learn more about him. I wanted to hear his story straight from him. How was he injured? Why was he in a wheel chair? Why does he enjoy jet skiing? What else does he do in his free time? I was eager to learn more and eager to share his story with all of you!
Anthony had a dream as a kid of becoming a fighter pilot. He soon learned that his eye sight would keep that dream from coming true… or would it? In 2000, he enlisted in the United States Army as a parachute rigger (92R) and was fast tracked to the rank of E5. Shortly after, he was selected for Special Forces and picked to become a Special Forces Communication Sergeant (18E). During that time the Army began a new Army Laser Surgery Program, allowing soldiers that have had the photorefractive keratotomy (PRK) eye surgery to partake in a special test program to attend Army flight school. Anthony jumped at the opportunity and was selected! His dreams were finally coming to fruition. He was promoted to WO1 and completed the Army helicopter flight training and became and Army aviator! It wasn’t until years later that Anthony’s dreams came to a crashing halt.
What I learned about Anthony I couldn’t have learned from a piece of paper. I learned that this guy has been a bad ass (sorry mom) for his entire life. Before his injury he was an adrenaline junky…. but the cool part is that even after a motor vehicle accident in 2004 cost him the use of his legs, he found new ways to live that adrenaline laced life that he loved so much.
You can tell how much Anthony loves the water…. You can see it in his eyes when he’s getting his gear on and I could definitely see it when he was riding. What I didn’t know was that he is also an avid snow skier, hand cycler, basketball player, and more. The man splits his time between Aspen, CO and Alabama. Constantly training for bigger and better things.
In 2009, he attended the National Veterans Wheelchair Games for the first time, as well as the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. His experiences competing in the world of adaptive sports lit a spark and he has learned how to enjoy living an active lifestyle like he did before his injury. He’s been in too many sporting events now to even count on my hands and toes.
The man is a beast. He’s got an incredible story of never giving up, adapting, moving on and enjoying life to it’s fullest. I am so thankful that I can call him friend, and if you ever get to meet him face to face, you’ll feel the same way I do!
By the way… watch out for him if there’s ever any marinara sauce nearby…. He’ll get it all over the table and all over you…. then he’ll blame you for it!
Miss you buddy! Love LIFE, Live BIG! Hope to see you soon 🙂