Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

February 9, 2014

'H-train' heading to Sochi

Kokomo native and Army veteran Hunt to compete in Paralympic Games.

Purple Heart recipient and former Kokomo resident Joel “H-train” Hunt will be taking to the slopes next month in the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

The 1998 Northwestern High School graduate will be one of four wounded veterans competing for the United States in the games.

Hunt was injured in a 2005 road-side blast during his third deployment to Iraq in three years. Along with being paralyzed, Hunt suffered a traumatic brain injury.

His injuries though didn’t sideline him for long.

Before his injury, Hunt said he never really appreciated what people with disabilities endured on a daily basis, but soon found a new respect for their plight. That’s how he got involved in a ski camp for the disabled.

“When you get injured in Iraq, I’m sure all veterans feel out of place and worthless,” he said of being hurt.

“When you come back you can’t deploy so people stare at you and act towards you in a different way. Now, you feel almost sorry you got hurt, but it’s not your fault but you feel like it is,” Hunt said of his experience returning from the war.

“And this made me so depressed. I was questioning my existence since I couldn’t fight for my country anymore.

“When I was introduced to skiing and got involved with racing, I found a new passion that I now can serve my country and represent them in a different manner,” he continued. “It might be different, but I feel useful and that’s what makes people happy when you feel or others make you feel useful.”

That’s also why Hunt has involved himself in the annual Buddy Bowl at Northwestern High School.

“The community makes the veterans feel useful once again.”

Hunt learned how to ski at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in Colorado on Dec. 17, 2008. From there, he went on to become a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Paralympic Military Development Team.

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