Wounded Warrior defies limitations in spite of loss of eyesight
By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer | Published: May 31, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Capt. Ivan Castro has spent much of the last decade proving he doesn't need his eyesight to compete at a high level.
Now, the Fort Bragg wounded warrior is encouraging others to push themselves to the limit for a good cause.
This weekend, Castro will host the Special Operators Challenge at the Carolina Horse Park in Five Points.
The event will include 5k and 10k obstacle races for adults, a kids race and other events while raising money for military charities.
Castro, who lost his vision in Iraq in 2006, has made a habit of accomplishing great physical feats.
In the seven years since his injuries, he has completed 40 marathons, run two 50-mile races, climbed two 14,000-foot mountains and cycled across America.
More recently, Castro traveled to the South Pole late last year with teams of celebrities and wounded warriors to raise awareness and money for people with disabilities.
The expedition included Great Britain's Prince Harry and actor Alexandre Skarsgard.
Castro, who serves with Army Special Operations Command on Fort Bragg, was selected after a rigorous selection process, surprising even himself.
"My family is from Puerto Rico and we don't have much snow in Puerto Rico," Castro said. "I hate the cold."
Training for the expedition was done in Colorado, Iceland and Norway.
Castro said he fell more than 40 times in his first hour of skiing and admits to second guessing himself, even if it was brief.
"It was kind of brutal," he said. "I thought I bit off more than I could chew, but I didn't quit."
Castro said he felt he represented his country, veterans and the blind on the expedition, which started as a race before the competition was dropped to help protect the participants.
Castro said the expedition was unlike anything he had done before.
Each participant pulled his own sled, which weighed between 150 and 200 pounds, and competed with ripples of ice that were several feet high.
"The South Pole is pretty freaking cold," he said. "You can't afford to break a sweat. If you do, that will freeze."
Castro and the others traveled for nearly a month before reaching the South Pole, he said. The terrain was treacherous, especially because Castro couldn't see what was ahead.
"There was a lot I couldn't do on my own and I needed help," he said.
Now, Castro is using his experience testing his body to help others.
The Special Operators Challenge will raise money for five charities, including Team Red, White and Blue; Step Up for Soldiers; the Special Forces Charitable Trust and Special Forces Association Chapters 62 and 100.
Organizers also will collect clothing and food at the event and will provide free medical screenings and information for families.
"We've got a lot of great things," Castro said. "I just want to get back and promote health and wellness."
Capt. Ivan Castro, right, gets a hug from Lt. Col. Fredrick Dummar, commander of the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Dec. 24, 2009. Castro, injured in a 2006 attack while serving in Yusifiyah, Iraq, was congratulated after graduating from the Maneuver Captain's Career Course.