Fremont, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - Tom Davis felt a great sense of relief when he qualified for Team USA. It's official now. He's headed to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. "It feels great," he told us during an interview at his home in Fremont. "It felt like 100 elephants lifted off my chest."
He often thinks about what happened during the Rio Olympics in 2016, when he trains on the streets surrounding his home. "I just wasn't myself. I didn't race like myself." Now he'll go to Tokyo for redemption. But the reason he rides goes much deeper.
Davis was on night patrol while serving in Iraq in 2011 when the humvee he was riding in hit a roadside bomb. "It blew us about two stories in the air and flipped us over." He still has the picture of the crater that the explosion left behind. It was ten feet wide and six feet deep, but it's the memory of his friend and fellow soldier that has most deeply impacted his life.
"Specialist Brett Tribble was killed. He was up in the roof in the gun," Davis remembers. Davis himself was trapped. A medic pulled him to safety. He eventually lost his leg, then in the months that followed he suffered from deep mental and emotional pain. "I was not a very nice person then. I was very angry about what happened. It was really tough until I gave my life to Christ."
Davis says God then lead him to another solution while he was recovering at Walter Reed. "My therapist said I've got something for you to try." For the next 15 minutes, he rode around the veranda of the hospital on a handcycle. "To feel that speed, as soon as I started I knew this was for me. This was what I wanted to do."
Perhaps, it's what he was meant to do. Davis has won the Boston Marathon four times and is now hoping to finish what he started in Rio by winning a medal in Tokyo.
There's a reminder of the reason he rides when he goes past his house in Fremont. He has an American Flag flying proudly in his front yard. There's a stone below the flag to honor of each member of his unit killed during the war. That includes Specialist Brett Tribble. "I just remember that sometimes you get so caught up in everything that's going.
Sometimes it's nice to remember what this country is built on, the men and women who have given their lives for us."