Retired Corporal Josue Barron joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2007 because he wanted to “fight for a purpose.” The young man, who turned 18 at boot camp, had grown up in Los Angeles and had even been part of a gang. He wanted to serve something greater than himself, so he served in the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and be assigned to Camp Pendleton after completing his training.
Barron spent 2008-09 deployed to Okinawa and other Asian locations. In 2010, his second deployment would take him to Afghanistan. It was here that his life changed forever. “On October 21, in Sangin, Afghanistan, my engineer and I stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).” He suffered immediate limb loss of his left leg above the knee and was blind in his left eye due to shrapnel that hit him in the head and face.
He would end up at the Navy Hospital in San Diego for rehabilitation and was there from November 2010 until December 2012. Barron didn’t play any organized sports growing up- “just street basketball,” he said. But adaptive sports became a big part of his recovery. In 2011, he would participate in the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) located in Colorado. Later that year, he would join DSUSA at the annual Ski Spectacular event in Breckenridge.
At Ski Spec, he learned how to downhill ski using a monoski as well as tried out the sport of sled hockey. Growing up in California, this was different than anything I had done before,” he said. During his recovery, he would also start playing wheelchair basketball through the Navy Medical Center San Diego. Barron would go on to join the San Diego Wolfpack, the only wheelchair basketball team in the United States that is made up of active duty and veteran service members who have sustained an amputation, spinal cord injury or other orthopedic or neurological disorder. He typically plays the point guard position, which controls the ball and facilitates the passing with teammates and a role where vision is typically important. “I just learned to adapt.” On the court, he has also been a threat given his speed.
For a few years, Barron took a step back from adaptive sports primarily to focus on his family. He has a wife, Debbie and three boys, two were born in 2015 and one in 2018. They also started a business and he was working on completing a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Phoenix, which he earned last year.
But Barron is back with practicing with the team, at least for now, in preparation for the 2018 Invictus Games, scheduled to take place October 20-27 in Sydney, Australia. “It also keeps me connected with the guys, with my fellow veterans” he said.
In addition to wheelchair basketball, Barron will also compete in handcycling and wheelchair rugby. I have done a couple marathons and have my own bike, so I feel comfortable in it.” For some of these sports, he suggests athletes must be able to use a wheelchair. “If you have upper body strength, you can do a lot of these sports,” he said.
Having previously competed at the Warrior Games, Barron is excited about competing at the Invictus Games. “You compete against each other (different military branches) at Warrior Games. At Invictus, you compete against other countries- I like that idea,” he said. “I like the idea of representing Team USA. It is the closest to the Paralympics.”
Barron has been to Australia before, but this experience will be different. “When you visit a location in the military versus an experience like this, it is not the same.” He is also excited about competing at the highest level. “I am going to give it my all and help USA get a couple of medals.”
Outside adaptive sports, Barron wants to do more public speaking. In addition, he can also be seen in the current Jennifer Garner movie, “Peppermint.” Originally, he fit the description for a stunt role that they were seeking but ended up with a small speaking part. “I want to do more of this.” For more information on the movie, including screening location and times, visit www.peppermint.movie/.