An active duty Marine since 2004, Jorge Toledo deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times and would “go back in a heartbeat.” But a pre-deployment training flight accident at Camp Pendleton in 2011 changed his plans.
After his helicopter crashed due to a mechanical failure, Jorge found himself recovering from a fractured skull and concussion, as well as a left tri-malleolar fracture contusions to his lungs and multiple contusions and lacerations all over his body.
Assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Jorge took on a new mission: to focus on his recovery to maximize his chances for success in the civilian world if he wasn’t able to stay in the Marines. And, soon enough, adaptive sports were a critical part of that recovery.
“Adaptive sports have contributed to my recovery and rehabilitation tremendously by allowing me to remain in the best physical condition possible, thus maximizing my chances for recovery and giving me something to take my mind off of the stressors of day-to-day life, even if just for a moment,” Jorge said.
Adaptive sports also gave Jorge the chance to embrace a new competitive spirit. Though his pre-injury sports involvement mostly involved recreational cycling, swimming and team sports, Jorge is headed to the Warrior Games for the first time this year, competing on behalf of the Marine Corps for the title of Ultimate Champion.
“So far it has been a phenomenal experience,” he said. “There aren’t many things that beat being treated like a professional athlete and having world class coaches at the ready to train you. It is definitely a huge honor for me to be part of the 2013 All Marine team.”
As excited as he is about the Games, though, the best part of Jorge’s adaptive sports experience has been learning that his injuries do not define him, and do not have to limit him.
“I have come to learn that an individual can truly do whatever his or her heart desires, and the only limiting factor in this life is your perspective,” Jorge said. “Regardless of whatever limitations doctors would tell me I have, I could prove to them that the only limiting factor an individual has is whatever limitations he puts on himself.”
And that goes for his fellow warrior athletes as well.
“I believe that a disability is only a disability if you believe it is,” Jorge said. “I have witnessed numerous fellow Service members overcome the grandest of obstacles regardless of what challenges were laid out in their paths. There is nothing more inspiring to me that watching the Marines I am fortunate enough to train with day in and day out tackle any and all challenges head on, without an ounce of despair.”