“Fighting Blind- A Green Beret’s Story of Extraordinary Courage” by Ivan Castro and Jim DeFelice was released this week. In case you missed the SOFREP Radio Podcast or the book review, please check them out. In 2006, LT Castro was a platoon leader for a sniper platoon in Iraq. On one of their missions, a mortar round landed within 5 feet of him, killing two of his men and taking his eyesight as well as inflicting several other injuries. ‘Fighting Blind’ is an inspirational story that takes you through several of his deployments, his experiences surrounding his injuries, and recovery. After recovery, he set a personal goal that shocked his doctors and medical staff, which was to run the Marine Corps Marathon. Since that first marathon, he has remained on active duty as a green beret and has completed over 60 marathons.
Here is an interview with MAJ Castro:
1) What advice would you give to veterans facing life changing injuries?
Castro: The best advice I can give is to set realistic goals, short and long term. This will help you stay motivated. You need both – small victories and large successes, little steps and long marathons – to go the entire distance.
You will get depressed and feel a thousand different things – resentment, maybe even despair. That’s where your friends and family can see you through. Try and get engaged with other people; surround yourself with positive folks as much as possible.
It’s tough, but try not to feel sorry for yourself. Self-pity is a trap.
Life does not end. If you can continue to grow personally and professionally, you will find some measure of peace.
2) You have raised awareness for people with disabilities as well as veterans issues, with the recent presidential election do you see President Trump making large improvements to the current VA system?
Castro: Being active military, I haven’t had a lot of interaction with the VA. I know they have a heavy load on their shoulders. There are definitely problems, but I believe that there is a corps of dedicated doctors and nurses who really care for their patients.
I’ve seen that.
I hope improvements continue to be made. The VA needs support from the top down.
3) In your book, you briefly mention the next phase of your life. Can you briefly explain what Special Operations Challenge is and how people can become involved in those races?
Castro: Special Operations Challenge is devoted to teaching people leadership and team building skills. We started by holding races open to the public; now we’re moving into a phase where we are aiming more directly at the people who hire and lead teams in the workplace. We hope to work with private companies and corporations in a number of programs. The company reflects my personal motto of always forward – we’re trying new things and expanding our message and mission.
As far as getting involved with us, we have Facebook and web pages – it’s still a work in progress!
4) Do you see yourself writing a leadership book in the future? You discuss some of the lessons you learned in the army and how they apply to running your business, the Special Operations Challenge.
Castro: I’d love to write a book on leadership skills. The military taught me a lot about leading, but being blind and starting my own company put a new spin on some of those lessons. I’ve had to learn a lot about the art of delegating and trusting people. And I learned some new techniques in building a team, choosing the right people, etc. I’d love to share some of those ideas and practices.
My own experience as a small business owner has given me some new perspectives on how to measure success. Small is big and big is small when you’re building a team – it comes down to the people you choose to complete the mission. Who is going to march beside you to the end of the journey?
5) Towards the end of your book, you state how much overcoming challenges defines you instead of the challenge of just being blind. Do you think the drive to overcome challenges is a unique trait of you or something you acquired from being in Special Forces?
Castro: To be honest, that’s not something I’ve ever sat down and analyzed. I have to say that being in Special Forces – all of my military career, really – taught and trained me how to deal with challenges. It tested me, made me better, demonstrated that I could survive any setback. So much of who I am comes from SF, from my brothers there.
On the other hand, I think back to the start my mom and dad gave me, the values they taught – hard work, perseverance. Without those early lessons, where would I be?