Paralympic Gold Medalist to Speak at VMI

LEXINGTON, Va. March 4, 2024 — The Center for Leadership and Ethics (CLE) at Virginia Military Institute welcomes guest speaker, Brad Snyder, U.S. Navy veteran and Paralympic gold medalist in swimming, on Tuesday, March 12 at 7:45 p.m. in the Hall of Valor of Marshall Hall. The event is free and open to the public as part of the CLE’s Courageous Leadership speaker series.  rad Snyder, U.S. Navy veteran and Paralympic gold medalist in swimming

Snyder will discuss leadership insights from his book, “Fire in My Eyes: An American Warrior’s Journey from Being Blinded on the Battlefield to Gold Medal Victory,” which details his life as an athlete, warrior, and wounded veteran. According to Maj. Catherine Roy, communications and marketing manager for the CLE, his book includes many stories of his struggles as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), then later in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) training, his deployment, and beyond. “His book is surprisingly transparent. It was as moving as it was authentic,” said Roy.  

Snyder was swim team captain his final year at USNA. He graduated with a degree in naval architecture, and commissioned into the Navy as an ensign. As an EOD officer, he deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008, then to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010. After six months of assault operations, Snyder was severely injured by the blast of an improvised explosive device, and suffered complete vision loss. As part of his rehabilitation, Snyder returned to swimming, and soon earned a spot on the U.S. Paralympic National Team. At the 2012 Paralympics in London, he competed in seven events, earned two gold medals and one silver medal. His victory in the 400-meter freestyle occurred on September 7, exactly one year to the day that he lost his vision.  

At the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Snyder competed in five events, earned three gold medals, one silver medal, and broke a world record. After Rio, Snyder switched sports to triathlon, and won gold at the Tokyo games in 2020.  

At USNA, Snyder currently serves as a fellow for the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership. He is a leadership instructor for future naval officers, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in public policy. He also serves as an athlete representative on the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s board of directors, and is the advisory board chair for the Navy Special Operations Foundation.   

Copies of Snyder’s book may be purchased at the event, and there will be a book signing following his talk. For more information, contact Kim Connolly at 

Marianne Hause
Communications & Marketing


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