Nearly 16 months ago, Foxborough resident and United States Marine Corps veteran, Andres Burgos, was in a hospital healing and beginning his rehabilitation process from a devastating hit-and-run accident that took his lower right leg.
“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].”
On June 29, 2011, Burgos was knocked off his motorcycle by a hit-and-run driver while on his way to his Marlboro home from visiting friends in Springfield. The driver who initially knocked Burgos off of his motorcycle was never found nor identified, 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.
Just over a year 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.
This, however, doesn’t stop him from trying to keep living. Every morning he gets up and goes to work at Motorcycles of Manchester South in Foxborough. Over the past year, he has attended various events hosted by Veteran Affairs in an attempt to reclaim his life and not allow the disability to dictate what he can or cannot do.
Burgos visited Fenway Park in August to take part in a CVS Caremark event that invited 12 disabled military veterans to take part in batting practice, tour the ballpark and attend that night's Red Sox game.
"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."
Since Burgos' accident, the Mill Street resident has been trying his various activities to test his prosthetic sports leg and regain his outgoing lifestyle.
“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.”
Most recently, the VA medical staff out of Boston invited Burgos to participate in the 2012 fifth Annual National Summer Sports Clinic and the Foxborough resident didn’t even hesitate to get involved.
Burgos traveled with his mother, who was acting as his caretaker for the events, to San Diego, Calif. from Sept. 16-22 to participate in the NVSSC.
While in San Diego, Burgos learned to surf, climbed a rock wall, and went sailing for the first time ever.
“My favorite part was getting to meet USA Olympic Archery Coach Kisik Lee,” Burgos said.
While visiting the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista Calif., Burgos discovered the javelin, shot put, rowing, and archery.
“I have been looking for ways to stay active, and Archery was a sport that I have recently been learning more about," Burgos said. "I would love to get good enough to compete at a Paralympic level.”
In addition, Burgos set a personal record by completing a distance of over 19 miles on a hand cycle, did a 200m Para-canoe Sprint of 1:20 going up wind, and re-learned some important kayaking skills.
Burgos, who is now back at Foxborough, said he plans to continue with the momentum that the VA adaptive sports programs have given him and would like to begin training to become a Paralympic athlete.
The Foxborough resident has begun doing research into schools which may, through scholarships and sports programs, provide the platform he needs.
“I feel I was strongest at archery, and it’s something I enjoy," Burgos said. "But I would also like to train in javelin, shot put, rowing, and para-canoeing. I feel I have potential to do great in all of them.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the leader in rehabilitation therapies available to the nation’s injured Veterans. The VA believes that healing the entire person is the most effective way to bring about positive change. Rehabilitation events specifically designed for healing the entire person allow eligible Veterans to gain motivation to reach their full potential, improve their independence, achieve a healthier lifestyle and enjoy a higher quality of life. Participating in activities that are exciting and fun reinforces to our nation’s heroes that they can successfully adapt to their new lives after an injury, discover new interests and continue to participate in many activities they enjoyed in the past. These are the goals of the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic.
The Summer Sports Clinic offers adventure sports and recreational activities such as sailing, surfing, track and field events, kayaking and cycling (hand and tandem), to those who were recently injured. Complementing the therapy provided in daily rehabilitation programs, the Clinic shares a glimpse of the many exciting recreational opportunities awaiting those Veterans who accept the challenge.
With the variety of water and summer sports available at the Clinic, this week-long journey hosts Veterans from all over the country who have a variety of injuries, ranging from traumatic brain injury and polytrauma, to spinal cord injury or loss of limb. Its fundamental purpose is to provide early intervention for Veterans battling back from injury, not only strengthening their bodies but overcoming and improving their overall being and self-worth.