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Captain Ivan Castro (born in 1968) is the only blind officer serving in the United States Army Special Forces. Castro (then a First Lieutenant) was providing support by fire during a battle with insurgents in Iraq when a mortar round exploded close to him leaving him totally blind. Castro recovered despite the fact that his doctors believed that he would die as a result of his wounds. He continued in the military and is the only blind officer serving in the Special Forces and one of three blind officers who serve in the active-duty Army. Castro, who is an advocate of rehabilitation funding for the blind, is also a marathon runner.
Castro was born in the town of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. His family moved to Hoboken, New Jersey when he was a child and there he received his primary education. In 1980, when he was 12 years old, he moved back to Puerto Rico with his mother after she was divorced. After Castro graduated from high school he was accepted by the University of Puerto Rico on an athletic scholarship. During his student years he represented his alma mater in Track and Field competitions. In 1990, Castro had lost interest in college in his senior year and enlisted in the United States Army.
He married in 1990, he and his wife had one child, Ivan Eduardo, in 1993, before they divorced in 1997. In 1999, Castro’s mother died and after her funeral, he went to the Dominican Republic to regroup his thoughts. During his visit there Castro met Evelyn Galvis. Glavis was raised in Queens, New York City and happened to be on vacation. They were married in 2001, 18 months after they met.
Castro went to Ranger school after he completed his basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Later he completed a grueling year long course of Special Forces training and earned his “Green Beret”. Castro’s “MOS” was Special Forces weapons specialist sergeant. Castro went to night school to finish his B.A and before attending the Army’s Officers Candidate School. He earned an officer’s commission of First Lieutenant and joined the 82nd Airborne Division.
Deployment to Iraq
Before being sent to Iraq, Castro was already an experienced combat veteran. He was deployed almost immediately as an infantryman in the Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm and later served in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. He also participated in Operation Desert Shield and in missions in South America, In 2006, Castro was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, which is one of the United States military units in Iraq.
In September 2006, after a night of fighting Castro and his men had relieved other paratroopers atop a house in Yusifiyah, Iraq, some 20 miles southwest of Baghdad. As an officer Castro did not have to be up there providing fire support to fellow soldiers. However, he volunteered for the mission and was accompanied by Sergeant Ralph Porras and Private First Class Justin Dreese.
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