"Staff Sergeant Larrea competed for a spot on the Army cycling team for 2012 Warrior Games, McGill Training Center, Fort Meade, Maryland."
SSG Julio Larrea
Lost left leg below the knee, ear drum reconstruction, injuries to shoulder and back
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Maryland
“Most people say ‘what do I get if I join,’” recalled Staff Sgt. Julio A. Larrea, who lost his left leg below the knee after sustaining severe injuries in Afghanistan in 2010. “I said ‘what do I need to do to join,’” when he first spoke to an Army recruiter. He remained dedicated to his commitment to the Army throughout his recovery at the Warrior Transition Brigade (WTB) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, even forgoing an invitation to try out for the Paralympics team to spend time focusing on his application for Continuing on Active Duty (COAD), a special Army program that allows Soldiers found unfit by a Medical Evaluation Board to stay in uniform.
For Larrea, the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) and his AW2 Advocate Hortense Brown were essential in facilitating his transition to COAD. Larrea said “I really understood the mission of AW2 when it came time to COAD.” Brown took care of details like reaching out to the Medical and Physical Evaluation Boards and find appropriate contacts at the Army Human Resources Command in order to help Larrea focus on his physical recovery. AW2 helped in other ways, too. “It provided an emotional and moral support just to know somebody is there,” said Larrea.
As squad leader in the cadre at Walter Reed, Larrea feels a sense of purpose as a peer mentor, helping to guide young Soldiers. For Larrea, this is his greatest achievement. “I am able to mentor someone and change their life,” he said.
Larrea, along with four other AW2 Soldiers recovering at Walter Reed, mentored and visited with Boston Marathon bombing victims who sustained similar injuries last year. “You help them identify that their road to recovery doesn’t start with the doctor, it starts at him, with his will to recover and his will to come back,” said Larrea of his work with bombing victims. “If he recognizes that then he can do anything he wants.”
Since his recovery, Larrea has competed in the 2012 Warrior Games and numerous cycling and running events. His next goal is to join the Army Marksmanship Unit in Fort Benning, Ga. As living proof of a successful life after injury, Larrea wants everyone to know, “at the end of the day wounded or not, we are just Americans. That’s all.”
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