Ted Rake’s enlistment into the United States Army was born from a strong desire to change his life and introduce a semblance of discipline and direction. Rake recalls, “I woke up one morning, and I had a massive hangover; I saw a commercial for the Army. I remember sitting there, thinking to myself, I need this, I need to change. I need to do something with my life, or otherwise, I’m going to be dead by the time I’m 25.”
There was no changing his mind once he’d decided to enlist, so Rake visited a recruiter without telling a soul.
Rake recounts, “I didn’t tell anyone, I just went to a recruiter’s office. And shortly after that, I took the ASVAB test and then I signed up. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t tell my parents until I actually did it. I remember eating dinner at home one night and I just kind of sprung it on the family, and you could have heard a pin drop.”.
“The structure was exactly what I needed.”
Rake experienced change immediately after deciding to enlist in the Army and basic training proved to be the catalyst. Rake says, “Basic training brought something to life that I’d never experienced before. Discipline. Process. Teamwork. It was a really good experience.”
Through his time in the Army, Rake developed a strong work ethic and continually took on additional tasks to keep himself busy. So when a freak accident at a brigade-sponsored function left him with a limp, he was eventually forced to medical out of the Army with an honorable discharge. Rake says that afterward, “I couldn’t really run the way I used to or even walk the distances anymore because it would start to throb and swell and it would get to where I almost had a real bad limp. And it never really healed.”
Rake left the Army and eventually made his way to college, where he earned an undergraduate degree in Construction Management and a graduate degree in Instructional Design. Just three years into his professional career, Rake began experiencing strange feelings in his legs.
I’m a very positive person, but everyone has their limits.
It first began when Rake would go for a run-- he was starting to train for triathlons at the time --his legs would start to feel strange. After experiencing leg symptoms a couple of times Rake went to see a doctor, but they found nothing wrong. After a year, Rake’s arm began to tingle, and he knew that something was going on that doctors weren’t seeing. It was at the VA where a doctor finally agreed and sent Rake for further testing. The final diagnosis? Multiple sclerosis.
When his body began a slow and steady decline, Rake became discouraged. He says, “To make a long story short, this was devastating to me.”
I kept telling them what I couldn’t do.
After his diagnosis, Rake happened to be at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for work, when he began chatting with physical therapists there; they told him all that he could do with his body, and he countered with all that he couldn’t do. Rake left Atlanta with two new contacts, one of which was the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
THE BEST THING I’VE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE.
A few weeks after returning from Atlanta, Rake finally stopped by his local Paralyzed Veterans of America office. Again, Rake says, “They kept telling me about the adaptive sports, and I kept telling them what I couldn’t do.” So they convinced him to attend the Veterans Wheelchair Games, taking place the next week.
Rake attended the Games and had the opportunity to meet veterans from across the country; the experience changed his entire outlook. Rake says, “They were making the most of what they had, and they were getting it done. Man, I was so motivated when I came back from that I signed up for the PVA immediately, and since then I have been doing everything that’s offered. I will not say no to anything, and I’ll try everything and anything. It has absolutely changed my life.”
“You’ve just got to make the best of what you have and do it. And that’s also changed my attitude at work and everything else. My whole outlook on life has changed.”