Coming from a family of servicemen, joining the military was a natural choice for Josue Cordova. Says Cordova, “I’ve always had great respect for the military. My grandfather was a WWII veteran, and he served in the Pacific in WWII. My grandfather was always so proud to serve in the Army.”
Cordova’s pride in serving his country, paired with a desire to set a different path for his life led him to enlist in the United States Air Force at age seventeen. “I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. We grew up kind of in a rough neighborhood, and we had a choice; either you go and do the stuff that’s not great for your life or you make a choice. And, I made the choice and joined the Air Force. For me, that was a better option.”
Freak accident while on leave
A Transportation Specialist, Cordova finished transporting an honor guard to two funeral services before going on leave. On a road trip with his brother, father and his brother’s friend, Cordova and crew were on their way home when disaster struck.
Realization slowly sets in
Cordova began to regain his short-term memory two-and-a-half weeks after the accident, learning that a driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and ran off the highway, plowing into Cordova’s car. The doctor broke the news in an abrupt and detached manner telling Cordova, “Well, you were in a serious car accident. Your spinal structure T11-T12 vertebrae, you’re never going to walk again. Your Air Force career is over, and your father was killed in the accident.”
It wasn’t until a week after surgery to fuse his spine that reality began to set in. One Sunday, while his mother was visiting him in the hospital, Cordova took his mother’s Bible and started flipping through it absentmindedly, something he and his siblings had done as antsy children in church. While flipping through the Bible, Cordova came across his father’s memorial card. “I just was devastated. That was the moment that I finally realized that I was injured and paralyzed and I was devastated. I sat there, and I wept, it must have been for hours. And then it all started coming to me.”
“He was an incredible resource.”
Cordova’s first experience with the Paralyzed Veterans of America was while he was still in his hospital bed, processing the effects of the accident. The Paralyzed Veterans Service Officer at Hines VA hospital at the time was Maurice Valeriano, who rolled into Cordova’s room and began telling him about all of the services and activities the Paralyzed Veterans of America offers.
While that first introduction to the Paralyzed Veterans was a bit overwhelming, Valeriano and other Paralyzed Veterans members proved to be a valuable resource in Cordova’s road to recovery. In the years following his accident, through ups-and-downs in life, Cordova says, “I could always rely on the PVA service officer to be there.”
“I didn’t feel alone.”
Cordova’s first grand experience with the Paralyzed Veterans of America was attending the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Of the experience, he says, “It was one of the first times that I felt normal. It was one of the first times a normal feeling came over me. I sat in the lobby, and there were maybe a hundred, two hundred, three hundred wheelchairs in the lobby and everyone was talking, everyone’s just kind of socializing, talking, and you know what? I didn’t feel alone.”
“I’m honored to be a part of it, and I’m honored to be doing it now.”
As a former Board member and now Vice President of Paralyzed Veterans of America, becoming an advocate for the national organization is a natural step. Cordova says that his father, who served as a union president, spoke with passion -- a trait he now manifests when talking about all of the incredible things the Paralyzed Veterans of America has accomplished since its inception in 1946 and continues to achieve each year.