By Lance Cpl. Chelsea Flowers
Pride. That’s one thing Cpl. Josue Barron will always have. You can see it as he sinks three-pointers on the basketball court and as he maneuvers his hand-crank bicycle to the front of a race. Most of all, you can see it in his eyes – his eye to be exact. Where Barron’s left eye once was, a prosthetic stamped with the symbol of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, stares out. Barron’s prosthetic leg also sports a 3/5 patch, a custom design of his own.
To Barron, pride in where he came from means everything. And pride is what drives him as a Wounded Warrior.
In October 2010, Barron, a native of Cudahy, Calif., was deployed with 3/5, the Darkhorse Battalion. During the deployment, Darkhorse lost 24 men, more than any other Marine unit in Afghanistan in support of operations there. During a patrol, Barron’s friend stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both his legs and a few of his fingers. Barron lost his left leg and left eye. He considers himself lucky.
Now Barron is competing in wheelchair basketball and hand-cycling with more than 300 injured Marines, veteran and allies in the 2012 Marine Corps Trials.
Barron sat down with us for a few minutes to share his perspective on a life very unique for a 22-year-old.
What were your thoughts when you were first injured?
I thought I was going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life because I had no idea they had high-tech prosthetics and stuff like that. When I got to the Naval Hospital in San Diego they introduced me to the C-leg and they fitted me for a prosthetic. As soon as I got it, I started walking. It was a little hard, but after a while I got used to the socket and used to the pain. Eventually the pain went away and from there I started walking.
Has it been difficult coping with your injuries?
It hasn’t been that bad because I have friends who are worse off. Every time I look at them I think, I lost one limb and they lost three limbs. That kind of motivates me to keep going.
Did you think you would be where you are today?
No, not really. I took shrapnel to my right eye, too. I was blind for the first two months and I thought I was never going to see. I never thought I would be where I am right now: playing wheelchair basketball and being independent.
How does it feel to be able to play competitive sports again?
It feels like I can move on from my injuries and still do the same things I used to do, but in a wheelchair. Even if I can’t ride a stand-up bike, I can ride a hand-cycle. Even if I can’t play basketball on my two legs, I can play in a wheelchair. It’s kind of the same competition for me.
Do you feel wounded?
Not really. You know what? I don’t feel wounded. I still do everything I used to do. Here and there I’ll complain, but just to myself. I don’t really feel wounded at all.
Do you feel that you have gotten close with other Wounded Warriors?
When you’re a Marine, you’re not going to be with the Marines in your platoon for the rest of your life. But with these guys, they’re all amputees and you know your leg is not going to grow back, so all of you are going to be amputees for the rest of your life. That’s what keeps us together. I’m pretty sure we’re going to stay close for the rest of our lives.
What are your hopes for the future?
Maybe just start a family and continue with wheelchair basketball because that’s what I want to do. Hopefully, I’ll make it to the Paralympics, too.
What does it mean for you to be a member of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment? Why the logo on the eye and leg?
I’m proud to say I was with 3/5. It means a lot. There are a lot of tough guys in 3/5 and they trained us well. I lost a lot of friends, but for all of them, it was worth it. I’m proud of where I come from.