by Craig Scheibell, Running and Multi Sport Magazine
There are certain dates in every life that have special significance, the more obvious being holidays, birth dates, weddings, etc. Like portals in time, some are of one's own creation and others occurrances of happenstance that give fatalists their ple asure. There are memories you share with a group and others you deal with quite alone...
Such as it is with Carlos Moleda. Where were you in the morning of December 20, 1989? Another breakfast, then school, maybe work? A hug from the fa mily and you were off to a good day, a bad day? Quite possibly like many times, lost in a blur of sameness that too often predicates the passage of our lives
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil on December 22nd, 1962, young Carlos could not have known what awaited him then. As a youngster, himself, his father, mother, brother, and two sisters managed to hold themselves as a family. When he turned 18, Carlos decided to start a new life in the U.S., to him in retrospect, it was an adventure thing that worked out.
Not a easy task for anyone,Carlos began the second phase of his life, standing in the shores of this country, all by himself. A "melting pot" name, no money and no English - the quintessential American beginning...
Armed with the will to learn and hard work he knocked around looking for his place in the sun, as his work experience accumulated. Already a resident in 1986, his dream realized, Carlos joined the Navy. After becoming a citizen, subsequently qualified to become a member of the elite Navy SEALs. Sure he could have been a regular fleet sailor, but that didn't interest Carlos. Challenge "stokes his boilers" and being a SEAL was his goal. Two more years passed in a whirlwind of duty stations and intensive training... The third phase in the life of Carlos Moleda was about to begin.
It was upon the rasored edge of war that the body of Carlos Moleda and those of other young men like him was thrown during that inky-black night of December 20th, 1989, Panama City - his units orders carried them by plane than by Zodiacs (inflatable boats) from his Virginia duty station to a sojourn in hell... On the ground his squad was moving quickly, trying to make up time. The schedule had been moved up and by the sounds of batt le, Carlos knew the surprise had been lost. Under the prescribed "rules of engagement," the Americans were not to shoot unless fired upon. As any soldier can tell you, that's too late. In a flash of light, Carlos Moleda lost the feeling in his lower body forever. The first bullet to strike came through his pack frame and lodge near his spine. Having been slowed by the pack, the round killed only half of him. The Panamanians kept firing; more rounds pierced his magazines, the rockets loaded with C4 he was carrying. The air was alive with the angry, crackling buzz of hot metal possessing evil intent. Nine of his ten m en squad were hit, four fatally. All in a matter of moments. Thoughts flew like ordinance - "people being shot," "friends are dying," "man this is for real!" Another round came, he "felt" it rip through his left leg. It was like a firing squad, waiting to get hit." Reinforcements came up, and as quickly as it had began, there was silence. In the distance it continued like a Fourth of July night, but it was over for Carlos.
He was to go through 9 months of intense rehabilitation before his discharge. In recalling the battle, unbelievably, Carlos chuckled, and said, "Yep, once the element of surprise was blown, we ended up in the worst firefight of the whole friggin' little war." Typical of his spirit, he turned his wheelchair into an expression of his athleticism. Competition on a able body had been tough, but now he faced & quot;the most challenging thing I've done." His wheels had became a statement by 1991 when he and a friend Russ Walton, an amputee, pushed 1,200 miles from Miami to Virginia Beach, after that came Alaska, 367 miles, racing on the toughest hills he ever seen. Since then he has raced many times, won and lost many races but through it all, he's maintained an amazing perspective. He's more aware of the things he has and says it began on "that day when the little boy was gone and the man began." Everyone has their problems "only on different levels." "I just wish people didn't have to go through something as traumatic as that, to appreciate what they have."
He is married to Sarah Preston Moleda and has a son, Spencer. He is an amazing man, a fine American and when you're with him you can't help but realize that there are few people on this Earth who stand as tall as Carlos Moleda.