FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Journey Through Darkness'
Retired Major Ivan Castro’s life was forever changed September 2, 2006, when a mortar landed near him in Iraq. Two of the men in his unit were killed and Castro was gravely injured. The attack left him completely blind, facing a long road to recovery.
Lying in bed at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, he felt overwhelmed with grief and fear.
“I still had bills to pay and grass to cut,” Castro recalled. “I didn’t know what to do, or how I’d do it, but I had responsibilities and I had life left to live. I had to do something. I had to move forward.”
"I decided that I’d run the Marine Corps Marathon, and I immediately began to train. Right there, in bed. For the first time since being injured, I focused on something other than what I had lost.”
Thirteen months later, he and a team of guides completed the marathon with a Boston Marathon-qualifying time.
The experience was transformational for Castro.
“Others were inspired by a blind runner, and I found I was still a leader. I was still the man that I was before being blinded. I could still serve others, lead others, help others. I continued to set goals, and with the help of many others, I reached them.”
Castro has gone on to run more than 50 marathons, cycle across the US and Europe, summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, ski through the Antarctic, and run with the bulls in Pamploma. Though he officially retired in 2016, he continues to seek new challenges. At a live storytelling event at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, Castro shared the story of his pilgrimage walking El Camino Santiago.
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org