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Jaywalking: Lacrosse-playing wounded-warrior honored

  • Wounded-warrior lacrosse goalie Calvin Todd doesn’t let his war wounds hold him back. contributed photo

  • Lacrosse goalie Calvin Todd is a tower of power between the pipes. contributed photo


Monday, January 08, 2018

Calvin Todd has devoted much of his life to the sport of lacrosse, so it’s only fitting that when the 29-year-old former Army medic suffered a life-changing injury in combat, the sport aided his healing process.

In fact, the sport has been such a big part of his life that Todd was recently one of three honorees at the “Sticks for Soldiers” Tournament, which takes place in Fairfield, Conn., on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The tournament serves as a fundraiser for wounded veterans. Over $100,000 was raised this year, according to Indoor Action Sports owner and Catamount Lacrosse director and founder Jeff Coulson. That money is given out to the honorees to used any way they see fit.

The money did not come without a price for Todd, who has a prosthetic left leg after getting injured in combat on Oct. 4, 2012. That came 10 years after Todd first began playing lacrosse for Coulson in Franklin County.

Todd grew up in Deerfield, N.H., and played high school football there. He dislocated his shoulder during his freshman year in 2001 and, following surgery, decided he wanted to rehab by playing winter lacrosse. There was no such program located near his hometown, but he found the Catamount program, which Coulson has run out of Indoor Action for many years. It was a two-hour drive, but Todd and his family made the commitment.

“I spent the vast majority of my high school years driving down here,” Todd said. “I just loved playing the game. If Jeff called on a Tuesday and needed a goalie for Wednesday, I would be there.”

“He would drive two hours both ways but never missed a practice,” Coulson added. “We would travel as far as Glastonbury (Conn.) in the summer and he was the only goalie I would carry because he never missed a game.”

During the summer prior to Todd’s senior year, Coulson selected Todd to play goal for the eventual gold-medal winning men’s team competing in a prestigious Lake Placid, N.Y., tournament. Although it was never Todd’s goal to play in college, he did exactly that, going to the College of Wooster, where he played goal for two years before suffering a career-ending injury following his sophomore season. Three months after he graduated from the school, Todd enlisted in the army as a medic. About a year later he was deployed to Panjwayi, Afghanistan.

On Oct. 4, 2012, Todd was still celebrating the birth of his first son, Angus, who was born just 2½ weeks earlier back home to his wife Alice, whom he has now been married to for seven years. On that particular day, Todd was out on a four-day mission to clear improvised explosive devices (IEDs), as well as to help push back Taliban fighters from nearby villages. As his unit neared its final checkpoint, Taliban forces opened fire and three soldiers from the platoon were wounded by an IED. Todd moved up to try and assist the wounded soldiers but stepped on an IED himself. He was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

“When I got hurt, my initial reaction was that I didn’t really care, nothing really set in until I got home, that’s when it hit me,” Todd said. “You feel sorry about yourself, but when they let you out of your room, you see other guys hurt worse than you, and it really puts things in perspective.”

Todd turned to the sport of lacrosse to use as motivation to begin to heal. He had to learn to walk using the prosthetic leg, and then to run and eventually play the sport of lacrosse. Todd said he finally had to come to terms with the fact that he was always going to have certain limitations and would never perform at a level he did prior to his injury. Despite that, Todd was dedicated to getting back on the lacrosse field.

In addition to that, Todd also said that having a son was a big motivator in his healing process. He said that were not for his family, he may not be the man he is today.

“I didn’t want my son to be like, ‘My dad is this fat old man who has one leg and is angry a lot,’” Todd said. “I wanted to be there for my son like my dad was there for me.”

That motivation helped Todd get back into the game, albeit on a limited basis. He takes part in a tournament called the “Shootout for Soldiers,” which is a veterans-only 24-hour lacrosse tournament that began in 2011. Originated in Baltimore, the tournament now takes place in 15 cities.

Todd has also found another way to stay with the sport in the form of coaching. Todd continues to coach for Catamount Lacrosse when he can find the time. He was also varsity coach at Bishop Brady High School in Concord, N.H., but has stepped away from coaching following the birth of his second child, Rosemary, now 15 months old. He said that he would like to coach again at the high school level.

All of the above led to Todd’s selection as a Sticks for Soldiers recipient. Coulson found out about the tournament earlier this year and brought two teams, each paying a $900 entry fee. Catamount actually became the first team outside Connecticut to participate in the tournament, according to Coulson, who also nominated Todd as a recipient. Coulson learned his friend had been selected and asked him to coach one of the teams, but did not let Todd know. Five days before the event, Todd got a phone call from organizer Jeff Casucci informing him that he would be honored.

“My first reaction was that I was taken aback. I almost felt guilty because I feel like there are people out there who can benefit more than me,” Todd explained. “It’s such an amazing honor to be selected, but it’s not something I let define my life. It’s not something I normally talk about. Most people don’t even realize that I am missing a leg. I did my time, I got hurt, but I have a life to live. I don’t forget where I came from and how I came to be, but it’s a chapter in my life. You don’t define your life by how you were in eighth grade.”

Todd said he is not yet sure what he will do with the money. Perhaps put it towards his children’s college education, or perhaps give some to help his brother Tyler remodel his home. Tyler was stationed at Walter Reed while Todd recovered from his injury.

Todd now lives in Canterbury, N.H., with his family and has found his passion in furniture making. He said that he thought about going into nursing, but while at Wooster he studied wood shop and decided to try his hand. As it turned out, two men who are New Hampshire Furniture Masters live in Canterbury, and one of those men, Tom McLaughlin, lives a mile down the road. Todd began working for McLaughlin in February and has been there ever since.

And it’s that passion that now defines Todd. Not the life-changing injury that left him with a prosthetic left leg.

“Right now, I’m just Calvin Todd the furniture maker,” he said.

It’s a humbleness that Todd learned during the many long trips he took to play lacrosse right here in Franklin County.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com. Like him on Facebook and leave your feedback at www.facebook.com/jaybutynski.