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Blind soldier doesn't lose sight of mission.

Captain Ivan Castro is the executive officer of the 7th Special Forces Group's headquarters company in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. An 18-year Army veteran, Castro first served as a Ranger and then completed the punishing, yearlong Special Forces training. He began his career in Special Forces as a weapons sergeant, then earned an officer's commission and became part of the 82nd Airborne Division.

In September 2006, Castro was stationed on a rooftop of a house outside Youssifiyah, Iraq, when a flash of light enveloped him, though he had not heard the sound of the approaching mortar round. Shrapnel from the explosion broke Castro's arm and shoulder and penetrated the left side of his face. When he awoke six weeks later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, he was missing his right eye, and his left was damaged beyond repair.

Having served his country bravely, who could blame Castro for retiring from the military and starting to draw his disability payments for combat-related blindness? But that's not what happened. Because Castro is no ordinary soldier--he is dedicated to the Army and his country.

The unstoppable combat veteran spent 17 months in therapy recovering from his wounds and preparing to once again function as a productive military man. He then secured his permanent assignment with the 7th Special Forces. Working in a managerial capacity, Captain Castro has also taken Spanish language courses, helpful in his group's frequent work training South American troops.

"I want to support the guys and make sure life is easier for those guys so that they can accomplish the mission," Castro told the Associated Press.

"The only reason that anyone serves with 7th Special Forces Group is if they have real talents," observed Col. Scan Mulholland. "We don't treat [Captain Castro] as a public affairs or a recruiting tool."

"Obviously, he cannot do some things that a sighted person can do. But Ivan will find a way to get done whatever he needs to get done," Colonel Mulholland explained. "What I am most impressed with, though, is his determination to continue to serve his country after all that he's been through."

Captain Castro is beyond the ordinary in other ways, as well. He has run the Boston Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon (tethered to a guide, Admiral Eric T. Olson, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command) and also plans on competing in the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
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Title Annotation:THE GOODNESS OF AMERICA; Ivan Castro
Author:Mass, Warren
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 15, 2008
Words:405
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