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Staying in the game

Army veteran relies on passion for lacrosse to recover from war injury

August 12, 2014
By MORGAN RYAN - Sports Editor (sports@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Lacrosse has always played a large role in Calvin Todd's life. He said the game kept him out of trouble as a kid and provided him a path to become the first member of his family to attend college.

Todd graduated from Concord (N.H.) High School in 2006 and went to the College of Wooster (Ohio) to study art and play goalie for the lacrosse team. He enlisted in the U.S. Army his senior year of college and left for basic training shortly after receiving his diploma.

On Oct. 4, 2012, Todd was part of a four-day mission in Afghanistan to look for and clear improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and push the Taliban out of the villages. His unit was about 200 meters from its final checkpoint when Taliban fighters opened fire.

Article Photos

Calvin Todd coaches the IAS U18 Catamounts against Tri-Lakes Lacrosse on Monday, Aug. 4 during pool play of the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Classic. Todd planned to suit up later in the week to play goalie in the masters division for a team of Army veterans.
Morgan Ryan/Lake Placid News

"The lead part of my element, about 50 meters ahead, got blown up," Todd said. "I was the medic, so I took off to get up front. I stepped on a secondary and it pretty much blew my foot off instantly. I was very fortunate that all my guys were very well trained and we worked through it. Luckily nobody died, but a couple of us lost legs that day."

Todd was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. to begin the recovery process. It was there that he reunited with his wife Alice and met his two-week-old son Angus for the first time.

"Could have been worse, can always be worse. Guys could've got a lot more hurt or passed away," Todd said. "We were very fortunate that a bunch of us that did get banged up pretty good, we rehabbed together. We came through the hospital at the same time. We were next-door neighbors in our hospital beds. We were a pretty good combo pushing each other through it."

Todd underwent a rigorous physical therapy program that included three or four hours per day of aggressive rehab. He put in additional hours working out in the gym. "It's one of those things where you get out it what you put into it," he said.

Todd was able to regain his strength and some of the nearly 50 pounds of weight he lost. He was fitted with a prosthetic leg below his left knee cap and was walking within five weeks of the explosion.

During that time, Jeff Poulson, who runs the Indoor Action Sports lacrosse program out of Greenfield, Mass., called Todd to see if he wanted to play in the Matty Demaine Invitational lacrosse tournament at the Indoor Action Sports Dome.

"I called him back and said 'Hey, I lost my leg. There's no way I'm playing this year.' He couldn't believe it," Todd said. "From then on, sort of my motivation was to get back and play. That was my rehab goal: to get back playing lacrosse again. And I've been playing ever since."

Todd returned to the lacrosse field five months after losing the lower part of his leg, and has continued to play and coach as much as possible ever since.

"It's always sort of been a big piece of my life, and that was the first thing I wanted to get back to: playing lacrosse in some capacity," Todd said. "Lacrosse is now a big part of my life. I coach back home, I coach in the summer and I play when I can. It's definitely a driving force for the rehab and just to continue on as a whole."

Todd, 26, medically retired from the Army in March after four years of service. He is now coaching at his local high school and traveling with the IAS select teams to tournaments in the off-season.

"The sport gave me so much, so why not try to give back with coaching? It's meant a lot to me to be able to impact kids. Whether they get motivated through seeing you with no leg or if it's because you push them to a new level, it's a good community to be in, constantly pushing the next people to do better and watch them grow."

This week, Todd is making his return to the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Classic as a member of a team that is made up mostly of military veterans. He was also part of the Inside Action Sports scholastic coaching staff. It's his first time back in Lake Placid since 2008 when he was still in college.

Todd first played in the Lake Placid tournament in 2005 as a 17-year-old. He played in the men's open 1 division and his team walked away with the championship.

"I pretty much fell in love with Placid ever since then," Todd said. "It was always sort of the highlight of the summer, the thing you always look forward to: the atmosphere, the tournament, the people. It's probably the best tournament in the country I would say, hands down. The talent it attracts and the teams, it truly is an amazing event. To be able to come up here, you know very few people get the invite. You don't come to Placid to lose. It's top echelon."

Although he still feels some discomfort from the prosthetic leg, Todd has learned to adjust how he moves and plays to compensate.

"It's different," he said. "Luckily I'm a goalie, so there's not a lot of moving parts involved. You grow up playing one style your whole life and now you've got to switch and learn to play it differently. But it's not bad. It all works at the end of the day, so I can't complain.

"I just hope they don't smoke me. My biggest thing is I don't want to let the guys down. Even if I don't get a minute of time I don't care, it's just great to be out here and be on a team."

The Summit Lacrosse Tournament has partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project to raise money and awareness of soldiers who have been injured while serving their country. Their stated mission is, "To honor and empower wounded warriors."

"(Wounded Warrior) opens a lot of people's eyes and gives them a sense that war is still going on and guys are still getting hurt," Todd said. "The lacrosse community is a very generous community, a very tight-knit community, and pairing up with Wounded Warrior Project, I think it's great for both sides."

Todd is looking forward to returning home to his wife and son in New Hampshire after the tournament in Lake Placid. He will continue to coach and play the game he loves, just as he has done for most of his life. In November, he hopes to take on yet another challenge: the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

 
 

 

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