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JBLM's Silva tries bobsledding

Nothing stops Marine that lost leg

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The concept of slowing down is not an option for Will Silva, a fire inspector for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Fire Department. It’s a mantra that he’s carried through his career with the Marine Corps before leaving and becoming a civilian firefighter.

While working for the JBLM Fire Department, he’s done just about every sport possible. He’s been a part of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball team, went to the Olympic Training Center for rowing and played recreational flag football on the installation.

Silva is often at many of the races organized on JBLM. Whether it’s one of the themed-runs near Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Festival Tent or the weight room at McVeigh Sports and Fitness Center, he remains active despite his prosthetic left leg.

“I’ve always been that way,” Silva said. “I’ve always wanted to move and be doing stuff. In the Marines, that’s what you do. You continue to press on.”

Silva kept this mentality when he was injured in 2003 while riding his motorcycle. A driver of another car T-boned him and hit his left side. Considering that Silva was sent airborne from his motorcycle, it was a surprise that he didn’t have other internal injuries, he said.

Silva was missing half of his left foot. Doctors told Silva that they could try to repair his foot or amputate it. Reconstructing the foot would have required a longer recovery period. Knowing himself and his active attitude, Silva chose to have an amputation just below the left knee.

“I was wearing a prosthetic and moving around in three months,” Silva said.

Silva was originally scheduled for six months of rehab for his leg. After just one day stretching at rehab, he didn’t go back. Even the staff at the rehab center knew Silva wasn’t likely returning for a second day, so they gave him resources for stretches and exercises to do at home.

“My sutures opened up and I started bleeding,” Silva said. “My doctor was mad. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea and there was luckily no permanent damage.”

Silva also has completed various Spartan Races, played rounds of golf as part of the Downrange Golf Program with the Veterans Association and was a coach for cross country and archery programs at JBLM Child, Youth and School Services.

Recently, Silva has made trips to the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., to participate in both bobsled and skeleton trials and races. He wasn’t able to make it this season, but said he plans to go out and do it again after the current season ends in March.

Silva would like to continue doing both events, but it’s unlikely he will be able to qualify for the U.S. Paralympic team. There are five world championship events for both events. Athletes who want to make the team have to compete in four of them. Silva said three are in the United States; the other two are in Austria and Switzerland.

In addition to the travel commitment, athletes have to dedicate nine to 10 mandatory days at the event to include practice and preparation for the actual competition. Although Silva does have a good amount of leave time provided at work, he said he can’t afford to attend the minimum of four events.

People who focus on the Paralympics full-time usually include those sponsored by a gym they work at or are retired.

“I could quit my job and do this, but paralympians don’t make enough money,” Silva said.

That doesn’t mean Silva isn’t going to continue trips to Lake Placid, N.Y., when he gets the chance, he said; he’s still planning to be out and about as much as possible. Silva was married in June and has a few outdoor trips planned with his wife.

Silva said he’s appreciative of the opportunities that are provided by veteran organizations.

“If someone is going to offer me something, I’m going to try it,” Silva said. “There’s no reason to slow down.”

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