by Cpl. Kyle Wagoner 43rd PAD
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Standing next to his starting blocks on the track he shakes out his legs and arm to get all the jitters out. Concentrating on relieving the stress and everything that’s been bothering him, he locks his feet in his block. Around his neck are two dog tags with pictures of friends he lost; reminding him of the opportunities they won’t have.
“I’m running for them. They can’t compete anymore so I’m competing for them,” said Retired Army Staff Sgt. Michael Kacer, a disabled veteran athlete. Kacer, a native of Throop, Pa., is competing in the third annual Warrior Games, hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee, in the track, field and swimming events beginning April 30, 2012 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Pictured: Retired Army Staff Sgt. Michael Kacer, a stay-at-home dad and inspirational speaker, prepares to run laps during track practice at the McKibben Physical Fitness Center at Fort Carson, Colo., April 25, 2012. Kacer, a native of Throop, Pa., sustained injuries in Afghanistan while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008. Kacer will be competing in the track, field and swimming events in the upcoming 2012 Warrior Games beginning 30 April, 2012.
“The most important thing is that we came, we left it all out there and we had fun,” Kacer said.
Kacer served in the military for more than 10 years before his retirement in 2010 after sustaining an injury while serving in Afghanistan.
The afternoon of June 18, 2008, Kacer and his fellow soldiers were playing spades in a building on a combat outpost when insurgents began firing 110mm Chinese rockets into the combat operations post. Kacer sprung up to react, when one of the rockets came in through a window, hitting the wall next to him resulting in injuries to his head, torso and the amputation of his left arm.
“I thought I was having an out of body experience,” he said. “Shock completely set in.”
Kacer considers his recovery a blessing and credits this to the support of his friends and family.
Since his retirement from the military, Kacer worked to return to the physical capabilities he had before his injury and he more than accomplished this task.
He completed 14 marathons since his recovery, something he had never done prior to his injuries. During the 2010 200m running event, he pulled a groin muscle and still managed to walk away with the silver medal.
“He’s a breath of fresh air,” said Ret. Lt. Col. Sue Bozgoz, Warrior Games Army track coach. “He inspires. He doesn’t feel sorry for what happened to him.”
She added that through practice and determination, Kacer has improved his running techniques and is someone to be watched.