Blinded Army veteran shares challenges he has faced and embraced (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

ELGIN — Steve Baskis was doing what he had always dreamed.

He’d joined the U.S. Army in 2007, his “sense of adventure and exploration” fueled by photographs of his grandfather, a veteran, standing in front of the Sphinx in Egypt.

He wanted to be an infantryman, and he quickly moved through the ranks. He was a specialist E4, a rank just below sergeant, he said, when he got the special assignment to protect a brigadier general with 12 others in Baghdad in 2008.

They were patrolling the northern edge of the city when a roadside bomb exploded next to the Humvee in which Baskis was riding. He was “very fortunate to only be hit with a few small pieces of metal,” one ripping through the right side of his head.

“Instantly, the world went black,” he said.

“The last four years” since that blast in which Baskis was blinded “have been amazing, filled with both positive and negative experiences,” he said.

They’ve been filled with challenges, such as learning to dress, cook, clean and navigate the world with a white cane, he told students Tuesday at Century Oaks Elementary School.

They also have been filled with challenges he has chosen: a half-Ironman triathlon, winning a bronze medal in the U.S. Paralympics Road National Championships, climbing a 20,000-foot mountain near Mount Everest with 10 other veterans, recorded in the new documentary “High Ground.”

Baskis, who now lives in Glen Ellyn, shared those challenges with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at the west-side school.

“Many of our kids come from difficult backgrounds, and we want them to continue to do their best and reach their highest potential,” said Kathleen Marden, principal of Century Oaks.

For the rest of the story, read Blinded Army veteran shares challenges he has faced and embraced (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Andrew Nelles for Sun-Times Media.