How sports lifted U.S. Invictus Games co-captain

10:51 AM ET

Life is good for Sgt. Ivan Sears. This year alone, he was named a co-captain of the United States team for the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, he married Sarah Wallace and he welcomed Ellie Rose Sears to the world. And now he’s making his very first visit to Canada to compete in — let’s see — the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the 400 meters and the 1,500 meters in wheelchair racing, as well as rowing and rugby.

“I just love to compete,” he says.

Almost exactly seven years ago, Sears nearly lost his life when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving with the Marines in Marjah, Afghanistan. As he would later write, “At that moment, time froze and I saw dirt fly up and felt myself flying up in the air. Finally landing in the hole that was made from the explosion, I lost my legs right away. From there, my friends pulled me out of the hole and helped stop the bleeding. … Fifteen minutes later, the bird came.”

The helicopter flew him to a nearby hospital, and five days later he was back in the States for treatment of his wounds and rehabilitation — he had also suffered two broken hips, hearing loss and hand injuries. Meanwhile, back in Albuquerque, New Mexico, his family was devastated.

“I was in the Marines for 21 years,” says his father, Robert, now a deputy sheriff in Bernalillo County. “Retired as a gunnery sergeant. We’re a military family going back to my great-grandfather. We know the dangers. But this news hit us hard, real hard.”

There’s a YouTube clip from a local news show of Ivan’s homecoming a few months later — 3,000 people came to the Albuquerque airport to greet him when he interrupted his rehab in San Antonio, Texas, to attend his sister’s bat mitzvah. Still learning to walk on his prosthetic legs, he looked frail and overwhelmed. When asked his thoughts by a TV reporter, he replied, “Amazing.”

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