Military Veteran Bouncing Back from Disability with Determination to 'Get Out and Try Everything'
Foxborough resident Andres Burgos was one of 12 disabled military veterans to enjoy a day at Fenway Park on Aug. 7, which included taking batting practice on the field and tickets to that night's game. The event was courtesy of CVS Caremark.
Foxborough resident and United States Marines Corps veteran Andres Burgos vividly remembers everything about the morning of June 29, 2011.
“I was coming back from visiting my friends in Springfield,” Burgos recalled. “I was on my motorcycle – the roads were wet - it had just finished raining. I was enjoying a nice, beautiful ride home [to Marlboro].”
Burgos, who served in the US Marines Corps from 1999-2007, mostly in infantry, was knocked off his motorcycle by a hit-and-run driver but it was what happened after the initial accident that changed his life forever.
“I was trying to crawl off the road,” Burgos said. “There was nothing wrong with me except for the initial shock and blunt trauma from falling off the bike.”
But as Burgos was trying to get off the road, a mini-van ran him over, causing serious injuries to his right leg.
“That’s what caused all of my injuries,” Burgos said. “Even after getting hit by the mini-van … the only thing that happened was my leg. I had no other broken bones, no internal bleeding or internal injuries.”
The driver who initially knocked Burgos off of his motorcycle was never found nor identified and the injuries Burgos sustained from that accident were severe.
Fourteen months later, Burgos is living life as an above-knee amputee and while those who know him will describe him as positive and outgoing, the eight-year military veteran says his injury can be “a slap in the face” at times.
“When you go from eight years in the Marine Corps as an infantry guy that’s SWAT trained and an urban sharpshooter … been to 12 different countries and led a very active and exciting lifestyle … when you get injured or disabled, it’s almost more of a slap in the face more than anything.”
During his military service, Burgos saw combat in 2004 during a deployment to Haiti as part of the peacekeeping mission, “Operation Secure Tomorrow.”
“All of that time, all of that travel and all of the dangerous situations I’ve been in and things that I’ve done … nothing happens to me until after I get out of the [service],” Burgos said.
Burgos just recently moved to Mill Street in Foxborough after living in Marlboro. While he is a relatively new resident in town, Burgos has worked for Motorcycles of Manchester on Rte. 1 in Foxborough since March 2011 and speaks fondly of the town and his coworkers.
“Foxborough is great,” Burgos said. “You can’t really go wrong when you have Patriot Place five miles from where you live and it’s a quick and easy commute for where you want to go. A lot of the locals here are great. … My emotional tie from the town comes from the fact that all the employees here at MOMs are pretty much local to Foxborough and they’ve pretty much become like a family to me.”
Burgos has endured a long and difficult recovery, which has included use of a prosthetic sports leg that he just started walking on this past March. During his recovery, Burgos’ “family” at MOMs has offered their support.
“[During] the recovery, my employer continued to pay me a weekly salary for four months while I was in the hospital,” Burgos said. “All the employees came and visited me at least two or three times and brought me food and snacks and stuff like that. Considering all of these people are from Foxborough, it’s pretty much like a second home.”
Over the past several months, Burgos has been putting his prosthetic sports leg to the test and trying to regain the outgoing and active lifestyle he enjoyed prior to the accident.
“Been able to try skiing, water skiing, hand cycling,” Burgos said. … “I’ve been walking pretty much nonstop [since March]. I can use [the sports leg] to start trying to get back to the gym and work out as well as try different things like wakeboarding and stuff like that.”
Burgos credits the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) New England Adaptive Sports Program for helping him regain some of his active lifestyle.
“Veterans tend to come from a background of discipline, a background of integrity, a background of taking on challenges and doing things most people wouldn’t be willing to do themselves,” Burgos said. “When you take away a physical ability, I think people underestimate the true effect this ability has on a person. It’s not just dealing with a disability, it’s also dealing with the vast difference in life before and after the accident.
“Programs like the New England Adaptive Sports Program definitely help veterans like myself focus on the positive aspects and allow us to set goals for ourselves that we can start striving for so we can continue to better ourselves.”
On Aug. 7, Burgos got an opportunity through the New England Adaptive Sports Program in partnership with CVS Caremark and the Boston Red Sox to take batting practice inside Fenway Park and spend the day on the field with 11 other disabled military veterans.
“It was a really good time,” Burgos said. “Those types of events allow disabled veterans to get out and get away from the negative aspects of dealing with life and the disability and life after the disability and focus more on the positive aspect.”
Burgos said despite not having picked up or swung a baseball bat since prior to his accident he enjoyed a successful day at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.
“I got out there and even though it definitely took a lot of effort and still with pain but I was able to knock some [baseballs into center field], which was definitely a good motivational boost,” Burgos.
The Foxborough resident took 20-25 pitches at home plate and hit all but four or five into the outfield, with some almost reaching the Green Monster.
“For me, the most satisfying thing was definitely taking that brief moment and taking that swing and hearing the clink of the ball on the bat and watching that thing fly,” Burgos said.
Another highlight of the day was meeting Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who Burgos admittedly didn’t recognize.
“I’m not much of a sports fan,” Burgos said. … “When [the veterans] walked out [onto the field], I told one of my buddies, being that I’m not an average sports fan, I found it pretty interesting that when [Saltalamacchia] walked over to us he just looked like a normal person. A six-foot-something person but a normal person nonetheless with his hair popping out of his hat, wearing the ball cap backwards.”
Burgos even exchanged a few laughs with Saltalamacchia and enjoyed the encounter.
“I was joking around with him and said I was going to post a picture on Facebook and tell everybody that you and me are close friends that way he can help me pick up some ladies,” Burgos said. “He laughed and said ‘you do that.’ … As he was walking away he even said ‘good luck with the whole Facebook and ladies thing.’”
Burgos and the other veterans from across Massachusetts and Rhode Island enjoyed an afternoon of instruction and batting practice with Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan, took photos in front of the Green Monster, ate lunch in the Red Sox dugout, had a VIP tour of the park and enjoyed the Aug. 7 game against the Texas Rangers, courtesy of CVS Caremark.
The experience at Fenway Park was memorable and something Burgos hopes he can build off of as he looks to regain he looks to regain a physically active lifestyle.
“I’m still trying to bounce back,” Burgos said. “I definitely want to do as much as I can. One of the things I’d like to do is become a Paralympic athlete. I’d like to be a Paralympic contender for shooting events like archery. I’ve been doing archery and rifle shooting.”
There’s no doubt Burgos’ strength and determination will get him there.
“Regardless of the emotional toll [a disability] takes on you, it still didn’t stop me,” Burgos said. “I still focused on getting out and trying my best at everything.”