Ever since he was a small child, Steve Baskis had wanted to serve in the military like his father and grandfather. In January 2007, Baskis enlisted in the army with the goal of becoming a Green Beret. He graduated with honors from Fort Benning and earned a meritorious promotion. By the end of 2007, Steve and his platoon were stationed in Iraq.
Eight months into his deployment, in May 2008, his squad was attacked while on combat patrol. A sophisticated roadside bomb sent a projectile through his heavily-armored vehicle, killing his friend and severely wounding Baskis. A week later, he woke up half way around the world in Walter Reed Medical Hospital. A doctor told him that he was blind.
Over the next six weeks, Baskis underwent more than a dozen surgeries to remove shrapnel and repair the damage that included a fractured nose, fractured eye orbits, a fractured skull, and severe burns. A severed artery and severed nerves disabled his right leg and left arm. Despite it all, Baskis amazed his doctors with his attitude and his recovery. As soon as permitted, Baskis transferred to Hines VA Blind Rehabilitation Center, where he learned to maneuver and function while blind.
As an admitted “adrenaline junkie,” Baskis was eager to participate in sports that would get him back in shape. He competed as a cyclist in the State Games of America and in a half Ironman in Augusta, Georgia. “The race was grueling and pushed me to the limit,” he recalls, “But I did not give up and I forced myself across the finish line.” He also attempted the Chicago Marathon, reluctantly dropping out due to pain in his injured leg.
Baskis rebounded by climbing the third highest volcano in Mexico with a team that included blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer. At 17,126 feet, Ixta (Ixtaccíhuatl) is also the seventh highest peak in North America. Despite losing sensation in his injured left arm, Baskis reached the summit on Veterans Day. He also participated in Weihemayer’s Soldiers to the Summit expedition, in which 11 wounded veterans summited Lobuche East (8.7 miles from the top of Mount Everest). Baskis then climbed Kilimanjaro.
“I hope will inspire others. I do not find my injury as severe as some would say…There is always something you can do, and it is up to you to find that internal drive to move forward. Never dwell on the negative, drive forward as fast and as hard as you can. If you are capable of that, there is nothing that will hold you back.”
Baskis’ blindness has instilled in him a drive to keep testing his own potential and to push the boundaries of what disabled people are perceived capable of doing. A testament to the human spirit, Baskis has become self-sufficient, fallen in love, gotten married, summited three mountains – all after going blind.
He has also started a foundation to do even more good and to raise awareness through adventure and exploration. In 2014, Baskis founded the Blind Endeavors Foundation, a nonprofit that shares stories of human resilience, as well as information about accessible technology, medical advancements and adaptive recreation that exist for those with physical and mental disabilities. Baskis currently serves as President of the foundation.