Shooting for recovery
At 17-years-old, Adam Kodra enlisted in the United States Army National Guard. His intention was to do something good for his country during a time when there was discussion that the Bush Administration might contemplate a draft; he could have never known it would change his life forever.
After taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, Kodra’s recruiter told him he qualified to do whatever he wanted to do in the military; initially he wanted to be a sniper.
“Little did I know that you can’t just say you want to be a sniper and then be a sniper, your unit has to pay to send you to sniper school,” Kodra said, adding that his superiors nearly laughed him out the door when he inquired about becoming a sniper.
He worked with the Scouts for a while and he completed one state-side deployment called Operation Summer Surge 2005. His unit worked security at a rail station in New York City and he was a gunner in a black hawk helicopter that traveled up and down the Hudson River following the London bombings in 2005.
For about nine months, Kodra worked as a recruiter in New York, where he was from, but he absolutely hated it. During that nine months, Kodra’s unit changed from an infantry unit to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit.
“I really didn’t want to disarm bombs. They told me there was a lot of money on the outside; easily six figures,” he said. “I said, ‘alright, where do I sign?’”
He completed and passed all of the required testing and was sent to EOD school where he trained for 364 days. According to Kodra, it is one of the toughest schools to get through in the military and he thought for sure he wouldn’t make it, but he did and he officially became an EOD Technician, which is one of the most dangerous occupations in the military.
Kodra volunteered for deployment with a unit out of California. Initially, they sent him to Kuwait and then Baghdad, Iraq and eventually he ended up being sent to Logar Province, Afghanistan.
“There were a lot of techs dying in Afghanistan and they needed another team,” he said. “That was when the deployment got real for me.”
Three weeks before he was due to come home, Kodra and his unit were completing a route clearance patrol when they identified an IED in the roadway that needed to be disarmed. He was “up gun” in the truck when all of a sudden Kodra saw a flash of light.
The next thing he remembers is his unit leader shaking him awake screaming, “You better not be dead.” Kodra looked out to see muzzle flashes. Realizing their convoy was under serious fire, he got back on the gun and started shooting.
For several reasons, all of the guns in the convoy were down, except for Kodra’s and he was the only gun shooting; he would later win an award for his handling of the situation. After they defused the situation, Kodra and his team disarmed the IED in the road.
Kodra returned to Kuwait to “check out” and return to the states after being deployed for 15 months. He was asked if anything was wrong with him and since he was impatient to get home, he told them nothing had happened to him.
“I didn’t know anything was wrong with me. I didn’t see a medic and I didn’t have time to see a medic,” he said. “When I came home, things started to hurt. My back was killing me, my memory was odd, my hearing was screwed up, my night vision was terrible and if felt like something wasn’t right.”
He went to a chiropractor and discovered his back was “destroyed.” He had several crushed discs in his back and his tailbone was smashed.
Kodra realized the flash of light he had seen when his unit was ambushed was a mortar hitting the bottom edge of their truck. The blast had thrown him backward and he fell nearly five feet from the gunner’s sling and landed straight on his back on the steel gunner’s plate in the truck.
Because he said nothing had happened to him when he left Kuwait, his medical records didn’t show that he had any injuries and the VA wouldn’t treat him.
In 2009, he took a job as a UXO (Unexploded ordnance) Technician. He traveled to different military bases digging up explosive weapons that did not explode when they were employed but still posed a risk of detonation decades after they were used or discarded.
Kodra’s medical problems only got worse. He began having really bad PTSD issues and when he went into the VA in California, they literally kicked him out because his medical records didn’t reflect any injuries.
With his PTSD, Kodra was working through some guilt issues when memories he had suppressed began to resurface.
“It was a lot of issues that I just didn’t know how to handle,” he said. “I completely blacked out and couldn’t remember shooting anybody throughout that whole fire fight. I kept having nightmares.”
Kodra eventually moved to Wisconsin to contract out of Fort McCoy. While living in Tomah, he met his wife Britney.
After several years of fighting to get the medical treatment he needed, Britney just happened to meet a two-star general one day while she was at work. He helped Kodra get the help he needed.
Even after receiving medical treatment, Kodra still suffers from numbness in his hands and legs, problems with his hearing and vision and chronic back pain.
As therapy, Kodra turned to long-range shooting. On June 5, 2017, Kodra shot three rounds to hit a target at a range of 4,752 yards with a .416 Barrett he had built.
“I pulled the trigger and about 30 seconds later, I hear what sounded like a cookie sheet and I knew I’d hit it,” Kodra said. “I shot two more times and I hit it all three times. We had our record for the world’s longest shot ever and we had the world’s longest cold bore shot.”
Kodra immersed himself in the sport of Extreme Long-Range shooting, entering into numerous World’s Longest Shot competitions all over the country and over the years, he’s won several awards.
In 2017, he established Kodra’s Marksmanship Training and Shooting Range teaching long-range shooting classes.
In March 2019, Kodra wanted to shoot further so he had a .416 Garret made custom; while testing it out, the gun had a mishap. The 42-inch barrel, which hadn’t been threaded correctly, blew off the gun, which kicked back and hit Kodra in the head with the top of his scope.
“I pulled the trigger and I knew something was drastically wrong,” he said. “There was blood everywhere. I saw cranberry workers out on the marsh and I screamed for help.”
When Kodra left that morning, Britney knew he had five rounds to shoot. She heard one shot and after too much time had passed without another shot, she knew something was wrong.
As she was about to walk out the door to check on him, she received a phone call from the guys who had found him and they told her Kodra had a severe head injury.
Kodra had a proptosed eye, his nose was severely dislocated, his frontal bone was crushed and he had a quarter-sized hole in his forehead. He was put on life support when they airlifted him to La Crosse.
It’s been a long road to recovery for Kodra and everyday he struggles with memory loss, vertigo, vision problems, the threat of a brain aneurysm and so much more. His medical struggles and his accident have not deterred him from shooting.
“The shooting is his relief,” Britney said. “He needs it.”
Kodra currently works as a counter IED instructor training various units at Fort McCoy and in a few months he will start teaching classes on long-range shooting again.
“I won’t ever give it up,” Kodra said. “I’ve been through a lot and I got through it because of my kids, my wife and shooting.”