Denver soldier inspires others suffering from traumatic brain injuries, PTSD

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DENVER -- On Memorial Day, we remember soldiers who’ve died.  But one Army veteran is focused on the living.  He wants to inspire others who’ve survived what he’s been through.  Joel Hunt was severely injured in 2005 by a bomb blast, during his third deployment to Iraq.

He came home from war in a wheelchair.  But earlier this month, he was up and running… participating in the Colfax 5K in Denver.  And despite running with a partially paralyzed left leg, he kept his sense of humor intact.

"At this time, I wish both of my legs were paralyzed.  My right shin is killing me!" Hunt joked halfway through the race.

Hunt was confined to a wheelchair for a year after his injury in Iraq.  He suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  But he didn’t stay in that wheelchair.  He was determined to walk again.  And he didn’t stop there.

As part of his rehabilitation, Denver-based “Operation TBI Freedom” got him into skiing.  And he excelled.  He’s now become one of the top five adaptive skiers in the entire country.  He’s so good, he’ll represent the US in the 2014 Paralympics Games.

"It`s not about the Paralympics, it`s about my journey, it`s about the rehabilitation, it`s about inspiring soldiers that if a ‘regular Joe like him can do it, then I can do it," Hunt told FOX 31 Denver.

Too many injured soldiers feel trapped, unwanted and unable.  His goal is to change that.  That’s why he ran the Colfax 5K at Denver’s City Park May 19.  He had support from fellow soldiers, coaches, and supporters nearby, and his trusty service dog Barrett.

His goal?  To prove to the others who’ve come home hurt from Iraq and Afghanistan… you can still surprise yourself.  You can still reach for your goals.  Whether it’s conquering a mountain, or slowly reaching for the finish line.

“I may not be the person that can change everything, but you know, one act of kindness, it`s gonna react, it's gonna start something,” Hunt said.

To learn more about traumatic brain injuries, and Denver-based Operation TBI Freedom, click here.

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