Josue Barron went to Australia with one mission — an Invictus medal

Elizabeth Howe
October 26, 2018 - 2:30 pm

Photo courtesy of EJ Hersom

Josue Barron joined the Marine Corps in September 2007 as an escape from his life as a gang member.   He deployed as an infantryman in 2010, and while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, he stepped on an IED resulting in the loss of his left leg above the knee and vision in his left eye. Now, he's representing team USA at the 2018 Invictus Games.

While Barron competed in both the 2012 and 2013 Warrior Games, this is his first time on the global stage of the Invictus Games. And he went to Australia with one mission — a medal. Connecting Vets had the chance to interview Barron earlier this week, in the middle of the 2018 Invictus Games.

CV: Why did you join the military? 

JB: I joined the military because I grew up in Los Angeles, and I was in gangs. I got to the point that I wasn't doing good. I had a single mom, six brothers and sisters. And I felt selfish because I was in the streets doing dumb things when my mom was at home working hard, trying to pay bills, taking care of us. I got to the point where I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't be selfish and put my family through it. Somebody told me about the military, and I took that window of opportunity. It change my life forever.

CV: What was the recovery process like for you after your injury?

JB: Right away, I felt like everything was gone. Everybody in my unit was still in Afghanistan. I came home and started a new life. Everything in the past was just done. First, I had to focus on getting my vision back — I lost my left eye and lost vision in my right eye too, but it slowly came back. Then came everything else. The biggest part of that process was having my wife by my side. When you're done with the hospital, when you're done with recovery, you go back home. And if you're by yourself, that's where it hits you. But if you have someone that's with you 24/7 you'll be all right. It really helped me a lot.

CV: When did you start playing disabled sports? 

JB: I felt like right away, after I got injured in 2011, they introduced me to disabled sports. You get a taste of all the things that are out there, and then you get to choose what you're going to eventually stick to.

CV: And what sports do you play?

JB: In the Invictus games I'm doing hand cycling, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. My best sport is wheelchair basketball. For wheelchair rugby — this is my first time playing it. But if you can use a chair, you can get the idea.

Photo courtesy of Shawn Sprayberry

CV: How have you trained for the Invictus Games?

JB: I've been playing wheelchair basketball since right after I got injured. In San Diego, we have a military wheelchair basketball team called the Wolfpack. We started that at the Naval hospital in San Diego, and a lot of guys play for colleges now. As for rugby and hand cycling — for me, I decided if I can push a wheelchair in basketball and I'm strong enough to do that, I can use that strength to do these other sports. I know the training and the physical part — now it's just about learning fast because I'm already competing.

CV: What's it like being in Australia for this event?

JB: It's been great. Just getting to see the other athletes from different countries can motivate you because you get to learn how other service members deal with their injuries. And I'm 100 percent focused on winning and medaling. I came out here with one mission.

CV: Did you get the chance to meet Prince Harry?

JB: I did — I've actually met him twice. I met him in 2013 when he was at the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs. I feel like those might have been where he got the idea for Invictus because Invictus started right after that. I was excited to meet him because he just brings so much energy, and he's so humble. He's doing a lot of big things for the wounded. But I met him there, and I met him again on Sunday, and he remembered me because I have the Marine Corps eye.

Photo courtesy of Lt.j.g. Marissa Cruz

Josue Barron's glass eye is emblazoned with the symbol of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

Photo courtesy of Sgt. Mark Fayloga

CV: What one piece of advice would you give to someone going through a recovery process similar to yours?

JB: Look for examples. Because sometimes you feel like you're the only one going through a certain situation, and you get to meet people who have been through that journey too. Once you see how people can still live a full life with a disability, with PTSD, whatever you're specifically going through, you can see from them and learn what they're doing. It's not always going to be like this, there's a way out of it, and it's manageable.