By JASON REYNOLDS
Tennessee Christian News
“The sun had risen, and now the people we’d just lapped could see Ryan’s scarred face and closed eyes. They could tell he was blind. Suddenly, without anybody saying anything, they cleared a path for us and started clapping, one by one, all the way down the hill. … ‘They had no idea what happened to you on that roof,’ I said. ‘They know nothing about your struggle or the guys who never made it back. All they know is that some blind dude just humped past them on a steep hill.'”
These are the words Robert Vera wrote of a dear friend, the late Ryan Job, a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL who lost his vision after being shot in the head by a sniper in Iraq. Job was a member of Seal Team 3 along with Chris Kyle, author of “American Sniper.”
Vera did not serve with the SEALs. Instead, he is a former banker-turned-author and entrepreneur who participates in marathons, Ironman triathalons and other extreme outdoor activities. He met Job after the veteran had returned to the States with an amazing life story about how being blinded was a transforming experience that made him grateful. The men met through a mutual friend. Job asked Vera to train with him to climb Mount Rainier in Washington state, considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. People die attempting to make the climb.
Vera shares his friend’s story in “A Warrior’s Faith” by Nelson Books.
Job’s being blind but preparing for the trek made an impression on Vera. The men instantly bonded and were close friends for two years, before Job died.
“He was a tremendous motivation to me,” Vera said. “Ryan’s loss was difficult on a lot of us.”
Vera began examining Job’s life in a journal, and that turned into his book, which was in the works well before “American Sniper.” Vera’s book highlights SEAL training and Job’s battles in Iraq, but it is so much more — it is a story of how being blind transformed his friend.
When asked about Job’s attitude, Vera replied, “He never complained about being blind. He said he was grateful because it was an opportunity.”
Wow. So many people in a similar situation would not have that attitude. I don’t know if I would. Job’s attitude reminds me of Joni Eareckson Tada, a Christian radio host and disability advocate. She became a quadriplegic as a teenager after suffering a swimming mishap. She has served as an inspiration to thousands.
And Job’s story is inspiring.
We admire people who overcome their circumstances; that’s what makes a hero, Vera said.
In his book, Vera makes note of an ironic situation regarding Job’s name: the Old Testament Book of Job features a man who endures great hardship as a test of his faith.
“It’s so uncanny,” Vera said. “How many other people named Job do you know?”
Ryan Job overcame so many obstacles. SEAL training is hard, but especially so if the other trainees and instructors believe you don’t belong. Job was a husky man, and so didn’t look the part of a SEAL to others. He was constantly tested and harassed. He pushed through the situation with such a great attitude that he won everyone over.
When he was shot in the head, he lost one eye. Chris Kyle and the other SEALs believed he was dead at first, but risked their lives to protect his body and then to render medical aid once they learned he was alive. Job insisted on walking to the medic station instead of being carried; that would free up his teammate’s hands to defend the squad. He would later lose vision in the other eye.
As for his blindness, Job “accepted this and everything with humor and grace; there was never a hint of regret, self-pity or anger,” Vera writes in his book. “He made up his mind that he would be the best blind person in the world, then pursued that goal relentlessly in everything he did.”
Job even went elk hunting while blind.
All that came to a tragic end as the American hero died a senseless death, not by Iraqi militants but by something mundane, but still deadly and sad. I won’t spoil the story for anyone who has not heard of the circumstances.
The main thrust of the book, Vera said, is that everyone has the opportunity to transform despite their circumstances.
“Ryan did. Everyone has a crisis, big or small. It’s the way you react that makes you remarkable. That’s what Ryan taught me. Many people beg for more time to live life. Ryan lived it.”
The movie rights to “A Warrior’s Faith” are being discussed. But that’s not Vera’s ultimate goal.
“I hope one person is transformed by this book and sees Christ because of Ryan. That is success. He refused to be a victim.”
More information is available at http://AWarriorsFaith.com.