Get to know Tom Giannettino, Dare2tri athlete, Retired Military E-6, Technical Sergeant, NY Air National Guard, Retired Investigator, and NY State Police, as he provides answers for the Q&A below:
What’s your story/background?
I’m a 21 year combat veteran of the United States Air Force and New York Air National Guard. Most recently I was employed as an Investigator with the New York State Police. While working undercover I was assaulted and during the course of apprehending the suspect I suffered a catastrophic injury to my right shoulder and jaw. After my surgeries and rehabilitation my injury was slowly turning into impairment. Soon, I was slowly losing range of motion in my arm and I was subsequently disability retired from the State Police because I was not physically fit for duty. Because of this untimely end to my career, I slowly spiraled into a depression and developed Post Traumatic Stress.
What is your specific involvement with dare2tri?
I attended Dare2tri’s Camp in June 2013 as an athlete only months after hearing about the opportunity to learn how to compete as a triathlete with a disability.
How long have you been involved with dare2tri?
I’ve been involved with dare2tri for about a year and a half. First I attended the adult camp in June 2013 and recently I volunteered at the youth camp in Chicago this past July 2014.
Why did you get involved with dare2tri?
The winter of 2012-2013 was a very dark time in my life. I wasn’t dealing well mentally and emotionally with my arm impairment and the loss of my career as a New York State Trooper. One morning I finally had the courage to move forward and find a new aspiration and goal for my future. I decided to find one of the toughest physical activities that I could think of - this being the sport of triathlon. So I started searching the internet on competing with disabilities. Shortly after making a few phone calls I heard of this (dare2tri) paratriathlon club that was hosting a camp. I was sold. I was going to learn as much as I could about paratriathlon.
Is there a specific moment while with dare2tri that sticks out in your mind? If so, what is it?
When I first decided to move forward with my new aspiration I remembered searching the internet and coming across a picture of this young female amputee who was standing on a box holding a bicycle on her shoulder representing the sport of paratriathlon in what looked like a photo shoot. I was so curious and so determined that if this person can compete with her disability then I could too. I was going to do this. Then after researching who this young girl was I discovered her name was Melissa Stockwell and unbeknownst to me she was one of the founders of Dare2tri. Even more exciting, I had the chance to meet her and participate with her during my first dare2tri camp. I will never forget this and certainly never forget how I felt when I first saw her picture and how motivated I became. She definitely inspired me! The whole experience has made a huge impact in my life.
What would you like others to know about dare2tri?
The experience of Dare2tri is so humbling. Seeing all the different athletes with disabilities, impairments, and illnesses makes you appreciate how inspiring someone can become. I think everyone should educate themselves on how competitive athletes with disabilities can become. In just over a year I feel that I’ve definitely learned a lot. Everyone should experience this feeling and volunteer.
What does dare2tri mean to you?
When I left Dare2tri’s camp last year I felt like I finally had a purpose. The camp gave me a true sense that no matter what your degree of disability is, there is definitely a place for you. This may sound crazy but, I was really missing the structure and camaraderie that I previously enjoyed for over 20 years prior to being injured, ending my career. I just can’t describe how the participation with everyone in dare2tri gets me back on track.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I truly feel that everyone possesses the capability to make a difference in someone’s life. That’s why I feel the dare2tri motto “one inspires many” is so powerful. I can totally relate to that statement. At a time in my life when I really needed to be inspired and motivated to move forward, I found the one thing that gave me that sense of hope. That was dare2tri. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be apart of it. I wish even more so that others that are struggling in life dealing with a disability can find hope and courage to move on and focus on their abilities not their disabilities. I hope that one day I can make a difference in someone’s life.