Growing up, retired Army Specialist Kyle Moxley was not an athletic person. “I definitely was not a sports guy.” After graduating from high school, he didn’t know what he wanted to do and thought the military was a way to figure that out. “I wanted to get out of where I was at that time and help me find my way in life.” So at 17 years old, he joined the U.S. Army as Infantry.
He picked Hawaii and Germany as his preferred duty stations. “They sent me to Alaska instead,” where he spent five years there before being reassigned to Fort Riley. Six months after arriving there, Moxley would be deployed to Iraq. In 2004, about seven months into that deployment and while on a routine patrol, a roadside bomb blew his vehicle completely off the road. “Shrapnel went through my arm pit and severed nerves and the artery.” He would need to be revived twice.
As part of a limb salvation effort, the medical team used nerves out of his right leg to insert into his right art. The procedure, which took about 10 hours was new at the time. “I was one of the first to get that done. But if it would save my arm I was willing to try it. I still have my arm today, so it seemed to work.”
Recovery was long and painful, with about a year of physical therapy. “I lost most of the feeling in my right arm and lost use of my wrist and the majority of hand. My leg and foot was compromised as well.” At that time, Moxley was focused on trying to stay in the Army and was going through that process. When that didn’t materialize, Moxley decided to move to Montana and work on getting a degree as part of his vocational rehabilitation, as part of the next step in his journey. He would study business, focusing on marketing and project management.
For five years, while completing his higher education, including a master’s degree, Moxley worked as a special education paraprofessional. “My mentality is that I want to face my challenges and one of those was PTSD. It was something I could focus on other than my injury and myself. When you are focusing on others, you don’t have to deal with yourself.”
Moxley moved to Colorado seven years ago. He walked into the VA to check in and saw something on the wall that was advertising a ski event, which directed interested parties to see the facility’s recreational therapist. “I thought recreational therapy, hmm, I love recreation so let’s do some therapy.”
The advertisement was for the VA Winter Sports Clinic, which is a week-long event where you can learn how to ski and participate in other activities. Moxley went, and loved it! “After I was injured, I was kinda confused. I didn’t know what to fall back on and I didn’t have anything to fall back on. I wanted to try and do everything in order to see what I could still do.” So he tried different sports. “Each new sport led me to know what my true abilities were. I was able to narrow down what I wanted to do.”
He started skiing in winter and kayaking in the summer through Team River Runner, a Move United member organization. “I settled on skiing because it freed my mind. You have a minute and a half maximum and nothing is going on in your head except how to get down the hill.”
Move United invited Moxley to attend the annual Ski Spectacular event in Breckenridge, Colorado. He would take up ski racing there. “I liked skiing, but I wanted to go faster. I wanted to learn more control.”
“It (ski racing) is an adrenaline rush. It stops my mind from thinking while I am on the hill. I’m just skiing. I’m focusing on going from gate to gate, how the snow feels, and the temperature outside. I’m not worried about what happened in the past or all the bad things. All I see is sunshine and snow and that is what I focus on.”
This is Moxley’s sixth season racing. The first year was spent at race camps in Breckenridge, Aspen and other places. It is his fifth year on the Paralympic circuit. He would get hooked up with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), another Move United member organization. He would get classified in his sport and has been competing ever since. “It is a family there. The coaches are great- we mainly have to focus on skiing and having fun.”
Currently, Moxley is ranked sixth in the nation. “I’d love to step that up, but there is some great competition. This year has also brought some challenges. The pandemic has impacted training, which started late, and travel has been limited. “We’ve done four races this year, instead of six to eight. We haven’t been able to go to some usual spots like California or Canada.” He is also breaking in new skis and boots, which has required some additional adjustments.
From a training perspective, Moxley is working on improving control. “I am concentrating on what my muscles are doing or how my feet are moving and how I work on that on the snow. My right side is very weak and unpredictable.”
He is already qualified for the Paralympics in Slalom and Super G, but the U.S. Team can only take so many athletes, so that may determine if Moxley has the opportunity to compete in Tokyo. “I’m always fighting for a spot on the team.” Recently, he did get a 3rd place in Park City at the Huntsman Cup.
The advice he give, as well as follows: “Don’t quit. Never quit. Stay out of your own head- that is what I have to do a lot. Keep moving forward.”
As a Move United Warfighters Ambassador, this past year Moxley had the opportunity to get his alpine coaching license to teach ski racing. “I can’t wait to be able to give back after I’m done competing.”