Sad news to report as decorated Marine veteran and wheelchair athlete Charlie Wittwer died last Friday. Wittwer, who once appeared on a Cheerios box, who was 66 years old died of an unspecified illness. He was fondly remembered for his leadership, positive outlook and tenacity.
"He wanted to be a hero, and he was. He thought you could raise the bar and everybody could do better," said his wife, Jan Wittwer.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, "Wittwer served as a U.S. Marine machine gunner during the Vietnam War, earning a Purple Heart among other military honors. He fought during the Battle of Khe Sanh in 1968, suffering shrapnel wounds from a mortar round. In 1979, 10 years after he returned from the war, Wittwer lost the use of his legs after an accident with a semitrailer, leaving him a paraplegic. Seventeen years after that, one of his legs was amputated after an infection."
After losing his legs, the decorated Marine veteran went on to become a wheelchair athlete. Wittwer also became an advocate for better laws for people with disablities and volunteered with the Minnesota Paralyzed Veterans group both as a sports director and as president.
He was also a gold-medal finalist in the 2007 National Veterans Wheelchair games. And he was pictured with other athletes on a special box of Cheerios after being chosen by the Veterans Canteen Service.
"You can't not be inspired by that guy," said Duluthian Shawn Corbin, who played wheelchair basketball and softball with him for 27 years. "He went through so many bad things in his life. ... If there was anyone who had the right to be jaded or pessimistic, it was him. But he was the opposite."
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