Lt. Brad Snyder, a former ordinance disposal expert, was blinded by an IED blast in Afghanistan in September. Snyder is training for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
Snyder finds his way to work at RedOwl Analytics in Baltimore. "Part of getting an injury like this is the idea that you've lost a part of you, and now you are -- for lack of a better word -- weird. I can't do things the way I used to do," he said.
Lt. Snyder served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an explosive ordinance disposal officer, or EOD. "The [EODs] are really the front line," said Mitchell Snyder, Brad's brother. "Every person on his team, from tip to toe, is a bad ass."
Snyder has learned many techniques to help him regain his independence. "In the pool, I feel efficient, comfortable, like I know what I'm doing. Such an amazing feeling," Snyder said. "Everything else, I've had to figure out all over again -- like being a child again, and you suck at everything."
Snyder laughs with co-workers of RedOwl Analytics during their lunch break. In addition to training for the Paralympic Games, the former bomb defuser is interning at the Baltimore software company and staying at a corporate apartment.
Roderic Sewell, left, and Rafael Castillo prepare to swim in a 100-meter breaststroke preliminary heat at the 2012 U.S. Paralympics Swimming Trials in Bismarck, N.D. The swimmers hope to fill one of the 14 Team USA spots allotted for American male swimmers.
Snyder, wearing one of his old college swim caps emblazoned with a golden "N,", dives into his preliminary 400-meter freestyle heat at the 2012 U.S. Paralympics Swimming Trials in Bismarck, N.D.
Mitchell Snyder is poised to tap Brad, his brother, with a padded stick. The tap tells Brad the wall is near and to start his turn.
Snyder reacts after posting a time of 4:39:52 in his preliminary 400-meter freestyle heat. The Navy officer was named to the swim team that will represent America at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
Snyder is congratulated by his brother MItchell, left, and his coach, Brian Loeffler, after his preliminary 400-meter freestyle heat.
Snyder is congratulated by another swimmer following his preliminary heat. “I really hope to bring attention to the wounded warriors (fellow servicemen and servicewomen hurt in Afghanistan and Iraq). And I hope my story maybe gives people some perspective,” he said.
Snyder jumps off the block at the 400-meter freestyle finals at the 2012 U.S. Paralympics Swimming Trials in Bismarck, N.D. Snyder posted a time of 4:35:62. He now holds the world's best time at that distance for fully blind swimmers, and is considered a front runner to earn gold at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
Blind swimmer Tharon Drake, right, seeks the hand of Snyder to congratulate him on his performance in the 400-meter freestyle event.
Snyder waits in a staging area with other sight impaired swimmers at the 2012 U.S. Paralympics Swimming Trials in Bismarck, N.D. "Being able to excel at something, to do it very well, is huge in gaining your confidence back, and gaining back that piece of you that you lost," the swimmer said.