Name: Omar Duran
Branch of Service: Army
Years Served: 9 years plus two years in the hospital
QL+ Challenge:  Omar travels all over the United States competing, in handcycle races. The Challenge for engineering students at the University of South Florida is to design and build a case that he can use to transport his bike while traveling. The case must be durable, easy for him to use without assistance, and must protect his bike during commercial air travel.

Why did you join the Army? I came from a small town and did not have a great upbringing/childhood. I came from abuse and fighting-- legit lawbreaking, biker family. It was the military, homelessness, or a life of crime and ending up in prison. I chose the military.
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What was your job in the military? “Jack of all trades.” But, I started as a chemical warfare guy and slowly moved around positions with schools and units I would become assigned to.

How were you injured?  A bomb went off in July 2011, and I turned too quickly, not realizing how close I was to a cliffside, and I fell off. I suffered broken bones, a spinal cord injury, visual impairment, and the onset of life-long illnesses. With a couple of years of rehabilitation and therapy, I overcame it and where I am today. Thriving and challenging myself and other people every day.

After your injury, what was the most significant hurdle you overcame? Readjusting into civilization; suicide (mentally and physically); and, the failure to have to return to my “Family’s Ways!” I joined the military to leave that life behind me.
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What do you do for fun/hobbies?
I don’t really have hobbies because they can come and go like seasons to me. I am passionate about cycling and helping other people physically or by motivating words. I am passionate about making people smile around me and hugging (I’m a hugger).

What motivates you? Other people’s happiness and determination.

How will the QL+ device the students are creating, improve your quality of life? By helping me protect and not worry or stress about my bike during any transportation situation. Airlines have not been kind to my equipment. Just knowing I can eliminate that stress alone because I already hate flying will do wonders for me.
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What has it been like so far, working with QL+ students and participating in the program? It has been enjoyable. The staff and students have been very communicative.

Do you have any words of wisdom for our QL+ Students? Hmmmm...here some “Omar” sayings for ya!
“It is okay if you fall apart sometimes. Tacos fall apart, and we still love them,” and “In success, there are no explanations, just the reputation!”

If you were writing a book about yourself, what would be the title?  “The Resilient Kid.” I should be dead!
With our Challenger Salute, we want to honor the service and sacrifice our Challengers have made for our country. We are very grateful that our Challengers have agreed to participate in our program.  Their participation is helping us to “build” better students. They are providing our students with real-world experience and arming them with the tools they need to succeed once they graduate.