When Snyder started out he remembers being the worst swimmer at the pool. Then there was the issue of the uniform. “I didn’t want to wear a Speedo because I thought it looked goobery,” he recalls. “But when I took that risk, put on the Speedo, felt like I looked like an idiot and worked really hard. Within a few weeks, I wasn’t the worst kid anymore.” Within a few months, he worked his way up in the ladder and dramatically improved. By the time he was 17, he was competing as a Division 1 athlete and being recruited for colleges.
Inspired by his grandfather a World War II veteran who was in the the Navy and badly injured when his aircraft crashed, Synder attended the US Naval Academy, got a degree in Naval Architecture and became the captain of the swim team. “After spending years in rehab, my grandpa went to college and then became an engineer and professor,” explains Snyder. “He did all these incredible things, but was such a humble person. I hope that I’m fulfilling his legacy in a way that he’d be proud.” Through Snyder’s distinction with the swim team, he earned an assignment to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer training and ultimately became an explosive expert.
In 2011, he was deployed to Afghanistan and placed on an elite bomb-disposal squad. On September 7, 2011 he was blinded when he stepped on a hidden improvised explosive device (IED) which exploded. “My mom got a 5am call that her son was badly hurt and she needed to fly to Walter Reed as quickly as possible,” he says. “My best friend, Ian, flew from Guam to be in the hospital with me. Surgeons spent hours putting my face back together, nursing me back to health.”
But Snyder didn’t see himself as a victim. He saw himself lucky to be alive. “I came very close to dying in Afghanistan. For a moment I thought that I had died,” he says. “But when I came back to life. I got a second chance.” However, that wasn’t the case for his best friend Tyler who was killed in Iraq in 2009. “That second chance wasn’t something that Tyler got.”