Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blind Iraq vet wins outdoor ESPY award

Capt. Scott Smiley

From the Tri-City Herald in Washington state:

Army Capt. Scott Smiley was named the best outdoor athlete July 20 in ESPN’s 2008 ESPY awards after climbing Mount Rainier despite being blinded by a suicide
blast in Mosul, Iraq, in 2005.

Smiley, who wrestled and played football at Pasco High, didn’t start mountain climbing until after he was injured. But when he was stationed at Fort Lewis with the 25th Infantry Division, he used to stare at Mount Rainier in the distance and think about climbing it one day, according to the Army News Service.

He got the chance to climb the mountain in July 2007 through Camp Patriot, a nonprofit that arranges outdoor adventures for injured veterans. His preparations included weight training, stair machines, running and practice limbs in the Colorado Mountains.

“You followed the person in front of you,” he told the Army News Service when he was nominated for the award. “You heard their footsteps and I had two hiking poles, one in each hand. That kind of gave me the ability to keep my balance. But it was difficult taking one step after the other, when you didn’t know what was ahead of you, whether it was rock, how high the rock was, if it was a slippery rock, how slippery the ice or snow was, if it was going to give.”

Smiley now is working on a master’s degree in business administration at Duke University in North Carolina and plans to teach cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., after finishing the degree in 2009.