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Army Veteran aims for ‘peak’ performance

Brian Archer knows life isn’t always about taking—or even choosing—the easy path, but rather making the best of the one you’re on.

In 1985, he enlisted in the Air National Guard as a weather specialist. After several years, he had set his sights on a military commission, and joined the Army National Guard to become an infantry officer in 2002.

Archer deployed for 18 months as part of the Kosovo Forces (KFOR) international peacekeeping mission, and in support of Hurricane Katrina’s recovery in 2005. He went through the Army’s mountaineering training, and spent time in Europe skiing in the Alps and Zugspitze, the highest range in Germany, honing his skills at peak level.

But in 2016, he had a severe multiple sclerosis flare and lost all feeling in his legs from the knees down. He began experiencing cognitive issues, vision problems and muscle weakness. By the time he left the hospital, Archer was in a wheelchair and faced the daunting challenge of having to relearn how to walk.

“I went from wheelchair to a walker, to a cane that I still use,” Archer said. He also now uses a special electronic brace to help activate the muscles in his weaker leg to keep the muscles from atrophying.

But Archer has also set his sights on something higher.

“I realized that back before MS I was an expert skier, but with this body, the way it works, I’m a beginner again,” he said. “So I've been relearning all of those steps.”

The lifelong skier, and first-time participant at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, began his journey back to the mountains using a snow slider—a type of walker on skis—and progressed to outriggers, tethers and eventually independent skiing.

“I'm not an expert skier yet, but I can see it,” Archer said. “I can see it coming if I keep working at it. It just does a lot for me to be able to advance my abilities with my current body. To be closer to what I used to be, it’s a really big morale boost.”

“It’s up to you to make the life you want to have,” said Archer. “You can sit there and be miserable or you can try and see how to make it better for yourself. That doesn't change just because you’ve got a disability.”

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