William Blair’s Veteran Alliance warmly welcomed retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant Brad Snyder to their reception on November 13th. On September 7, 2011, Brad Snyder stepped on a 40-pound IED which took both his eyes, shattered his eardrum, and lacerated his face while serving as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer with SEAL Team Ten.
Just one year later on September 7, 2012, he became a Paralympic Champion winning his first gold medal in swimming at the London Paralympic Games. He went on to win a total of five gold medals and two silver medals during the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. In addition to his podium appearances, Snyder also broke the 30-year-old world record in the 100m freestyle in Rio.
“When we say service, this idea of working towards investing yourself in the community moment by moment—you don’t always have to reap a direct reward. You may never know how far your investment goes. But I challenge you guys to continue to explore the meaning of service so maybe you can help a guy like me wind up on the podium in London,” Snyder told the gathering.
Recollection of the Afghanistan attack where he was injured and its long aftermath, he said, underscored this reverence for service.
“I thought I died that day,” he said. “I fell asleep in Afghanistan and woke up in Maryland at Walter Reed Hospital 60 hours later.”
Snyder spoke of his friends who retrieved him from the battlefield. The pilot and the flight crew who rescued him. The surgeons and medical crew in Kandahar who spent 12 hours preparing his face for transport to Germany for additional surgery before heading home. A surgeon at Walter Reed who tried to save his vision. His mother, brothers, sister, and friends who supported him. His former swimming coach from St. Petersburg, Florida, who encouraged him to get back into the water after the explosion.
Just one year later he stood on the Olympic podium, a Paralympic Champion.
“As I stood at attention, listening to the anthem play, I thought about all the people who helped me get there,” Snyder said. “I realized individuals never accomplish anything truly great. It’s when communities leverage their collaborative effort towards a cohesive goal—that’s where magic happens. That’s where gold medals are possible.”
Snyder’s story is an inspiration. He has touched the lives of people across the country. To continue to share his story, he recently co-authored a memoir, Fire In My Eyes, with Tom Sileo. Snyder teaches leadership and ethics classes at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, his alma mater.