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National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

Snowboarding Wounded Warrior Refuses to Be Sidelined

Photo of Army Sgt. Kristian Cedeno

Eight and a half months ago, Army Sgt. Kristian “Dino” Cedeno was on the top of the world -- married six days before deploying to Afghanistan with the love of his life and soldiering with his band of brothers from the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade.

Life changed in an instant when Cedeno stepped on an improvised explosive device during a firefight in Kandahar. His right leg was blown off just above the knee, and his left leg was so burned and peppered with shrapnel that his wife, Gwen, said it looked like a shark had chewed it away.

On Monday, Cedeno snowboarded down Snowmass Mountain during the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, surprising even himself at his accomplishment. The experience exhilarated Cedeno, one of just two active-duty troops participating in the clinic.

“In one word, I feel like I’m alive again,” he said while celebrating the success with Gwen and his adaptive ski instructor, Air Force veteran Jill Reifsnider, at his side.

For Cedeno, the lessons he’s learning at the world’s largest and longest-running rehabilitative disabled sports event are life lessons: never give up and never stop reaching for new heights. It’s the can-do spirit that’s driven him throughout his recovery and rehabilitation, Gwen said.

The speed of Cedeno’s recovery attracts a lot of attention that he admits makes him uncomfortable. “I hate being told I’m a hero or an inspiration,” he said. “I have always been that guy to do his job, not for the ‘Good for you’ or the congratulations.”

In fact, Cedeno said, it’s those around him -- his wife, his fellow soldiers, his caregivers -- who inspire him to press on. Talking privately with his fellow platoon members, he tells them, “You motivated me to continue this fight that I thought I had lost.”

That fight continues this week at the winter sports clinic, where Cedeno said he’s found a support network that will be a big factor in his continued progress -- here on the slopes and in life.

Looking up at the mountain, Cedeno said he was ready to tackle it once again, perhaps even faster this time. “It’s just like my job. Of course I’m going back out there!” he said.

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