By Mike Fletcher Kokomo Tribune
---- — 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.
Now, his hard work and dedication earned him a nomination to compete for the U.S. team in the Paralympic Winter Games on March 7-16 in Sochi, Russia as part of the USA Alpine Skiing Team.
Hunt is one of four veterans competing. The others are Heath Calhoun (Army/Bristol, Tenn.), Devlin-Young (Coast Guard), and Jon Lujan (Marine Corps/Littleton, Colo.)
Competition for alpine skiing will take place March 8-16, with March 12 scheduled as an off-day. Athletes will compete in five disciplines — downhill, super-G, super combined, slalom and giant slalom.
The USOC and NBC Olympics have partnered to provide an unprecedented level of coverage to the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. NBC and NBC Sports Network will combine to air 50 hours of television, starting on March 7 with the opening ceremony. It will be followed by daily coverage of all five Paralympic sports in the Sochi program, before the games’ closing ceremony is broadcast on March 16. In addition, TeamUSA.org will live stream all events from the Paralympic Winter Games.
"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 ..." -- Joel Hunt, U.S. Paralympian