Soldiers injured at war take on Dakar Rally with Race2Recovery
U.S. Marines Mark Zambon and Tim Read both lost legs while serving in Afghanistan. Now they're going to be part of a team of other injured vets, who will take on the grueling 15-day, off-road Dakar Rally across South America.
When Marine Staff Sergeant Mark Zambon races across the finish line of the Dakar Rally on Jan. 20, it’ll be like he’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro – for the second time.
The double-amputee scaled the 19,341-feet-tall peak last July, just 18 months after he lost both his legs in an explosion while serving in Sangin, Afghanistan.
“The majority public opinion of someone whose legs are blown up is Forrest
Gump. Someone who turns to booze, who grows their hair long,” Zambon said. “Climbing up that mountain was my way of rewriting what it means to be injured like this.”
Zambon’s next chapter is Race2Recovery, a team comprised mostly of injured servicemen who will compete in the Dakar Rally, a grueling 15-day off-road race across South America that kicks off Jan. 5.
“To get severely injured like this, it’s such life changing event,” Zambon said. “Now, to join up with people who have fought the same enemies, had the same injuries…it’s really phenomenal.”
Both British and U.S. servicemen will compete in the grueling race, many of whom were wounded while on duty.
The 27-year-old bomb technician was working to disable a homemade explosive when he stepped on an improvised explosive device on Jan. 11, 2011. The blast ripped off both his legs just above his knees, but it was far from his first brush with death. During his six deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he survived four prior explosions, one of which tore off the tips of three of his fingers.But his injuries never held him back, said Zambon’s mother.
“There is never a dull moment with Mark around,” said Barbara Zambon from the family’s home in Marquette, Michigan. “He’s the spice of the family.”
Zambon will rely on that same spirit of tenacity as he navigates his team through 6,000 miles of rough terrain from Lima, Peru to Cordoba, Argentina, and eventually cross the finish line in Santiago, Chile.
Joining Zambon on the epic race is Tim Read, a fellow Marine and amputee, who lost his left leg after he stepped on an IED in Marjah, Afghanistan in 2010.
The 6,000-mile off-rough race takes competitors through the rough terrain of southern Peru, all the way to Santiago, Chile.
It was the same leg that took a bullet just two months before. That injury offered Read, 23, a chance to head back home to Starkville, Miss., but he decided to stay on the ground with his fellow servicemen.
“The Marines are selfless, not selfish,” said Read. “I was doing a job that some people were planning to do for the rest of their life.”
The amputation was an unexpected blow for the usually lighthearted Read, who battled with bouts of depression following the injury.
“You feel like you no longer have a purpose,” he explained. “I couldn’t keep relationships. I had no will to do anything.”
It wasn’t until Read sat down to write a paper on post-traumatic stress disorder for a psychology class held at Balboa Hospital in San Diego, where he was recovering, that he came to terms with his depression.
Read more: Soldiers injured at war take on Dakar Rally with Race2Recovery - NY Daily News
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