Rico Roman has represented the country he put his life on the line for not only once, but twice.
As the first war-wounded veteran to be nominated to the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team, his inspiring journey from losing one of his legs during his third deployment in Iraq, to making his way overseas yet again as he competes in Sochi, is certainly one to be commended.
“Every setback you have a chance to come back and rise up from that,” Roman said of his remarkable perseverance on “GMA Live!” today.
In 2007, Staff Sgt. Roman was nearing the end of his deployment when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb, ultimately taking his left leg.
“I was running a vehicle checkpoint, and we were all up in the armored Humvees,” he explained. “Sometimes you get clues, wires on the ground, big bomb right in the middle of the road or maybe even nobody in the road at all. Unfortunately I didn’t see any of these signs that day and my vehicle struck the IED. I sustained injuries to both my right and left leg, ultimately having to do an amputation in my left leg.”
Despite the devastating setback, Roman remained eternally optimistic, thanking his family for motivating him to get back out of bed and right back on his feet where he was before.
But he didn’t just get out of bed. He got onto the ice, developing a passion for the sport of sled hockey, something that had never interested him prior to his injury.
“At first I was really hesitant,” Roman recalled. “I didn’t come from a hockey state, never watched hockey, but I went and tried it out and was hooked instantly. The camaraderie in that locker room … We have an all-veteran team in San Antonio, and it was an amazing feeling being part of a team again.”
And he’s not part of just any team. Roman is heading to Sochi on Feb. 26to fight for the gold alongside his fellow veterans, an impressive feat that hasn’t completely hit him yet.
“I don’t think it’s going to hit me until we’re on the ice and everybody’s cheering and you hear those national anthems playing and the Zamboni comes and cuts the ice,” he said, confident of USA’s ability to take home the gold.
But despite all his achievements, Roman recognizes none of it would have been possible had he not had that fateful run-in with the IED that tragically took his leg.
“None of these other things would have happened if that hadn’t have happened,” he explained. “And now I’m on my way to Sochi, Russia, to represent USA.
“It’s just a great feeling.”