Sean Haggard Hero Story
For veteran Sean Haggard, 28, life is a continual adventure. At 16, he left Missouri on what was to be a short trip to California. But plans changed. “I remember thinking, ‘wow, so this is San Diego,’ ” Sean recalls. “It was great—I ended up staying.”
Following a year at San Diego State University, Sean enlisted in the Air Force, spending most of his four-year career stationed at Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base. After discharge, he put his skills as an computer, network, switching and cryptographic systems technician to work for Pfizer as a network engineer.
Adventure called again; a year later, Sean became an Army contractor, managing wide area and local area connections for Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Then, on Sept. 12, 2009, everything changed. An auto accident in Mangaf, Kuwait, permanently damaged his spinal cord.
After rehab at Craig Hospital in Denver, Sean was introduced to handcycling by the Denver VA Wheelchair Program. “You can put extreme amounts of hard work into it, and you’re guaranteed a benefit,” he says. “You get better if you keep working hard—that’s my mentality for everything.”
In less than a year, Sean took first place in slalom, handcycling, freestyle and backstroke swimming, and weightlifting at the 2010 National Veterans Wheelchair Games. He came in second in the slalom Super G competition, open to all experience and skill levels.
Last year Sean made the U.S. Para-Cycling Military Team and the Paralyzed Veterans Racing A Team. Currently volunteering at the Denver VA Wheelchair Clinic, local Boys and Girls Club and Craig Hospital, Sean is pursuing his next adventure: “My goal is to make the [paralympic] handcycling team in 2016 and go to Rio de Janeiro,” he says.
Will he be going for the gold medal? He laughs: “Is there any other?”
Lee Fleming is a writer based in Washington, DC, whose articles appear in national publications and on the Web.