When he was growing up as a Midwest kid, Justin Widhalm’s mom used to tell him “adversity builds character.” However, after his experiences, he decided the real story is that “adversity reveals character.” Adversity reveals the strength people already have inside themselves. After surviving 12 IEDs and a fall from a helicopter that broke his back and resulted in serious brain damage, the combat veteran still represents the United States, only now as a para-athlete.
Though his father and brother served in the military, family wasn’t the only driving force to enlist. Justin says, “It was the sense of being a protector. In high school, I always stuck up for the people that were getting bullied.” He re-enlisted after 9/11 and served two tours in Iraq. Joining the military was a natural progression, unlike his journey into cycling.