James Sides was born in Austin, Texas and lived there for 13 years before moving to Gainesville, Florida and was raised by a single mother alongside his two younger siblings. Sides was very active and outgoing during his childhood, moving to Florida just before high school opened his eyes to action sports he would soon learn to love such as surfing and skateboarding.
Sides enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. on March 11th, 2002. His original plan was to serve for four years then continue his education, he came to the realization that he loved the Marine Corps. and actually re-enlisted multiple times before getting injured and retiring for medical reasons.
During his time serving he was part of four different units including, Tango Battery, 5th Battalion 11th Marines 2002-2006; Sierra Battery, 5th Battalion 11th Marines 2007-2008; EOD Section, MWSS-172, 2008-2011; and 1st EOD Company, 1st MAR DIV 2011-2012. Staff Sergeant James Sides received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for locating and destroying a directional shape charged Improvised Explosive Device after an Improvised Explosive Device call, which resulted in the saving of other Marines and Afghan soldiers’ lives. He also received a Purple Heart medal for the injuries he sustained while uncovering an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan.
In July of 2012, James Sides was attempting to disarm an Improvised Explosive Device with the help of his team. The ground was too hard for the robot to dig into so he had to do a manual render safe. While he was digging into the ground to locate the main charge of the Improvised Explosive Device, it suddenly detonated. As a result, James lost his right hand and four inches of his forearm, on top of that he is also fully blind in his left eye, and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and General Anxiety Disorder. James met his wife, Amy, shortly before this in 2011 and his injury only strengthened their bond together, they were later married in August 2014 and had their daughter, Avery.
In recent years James has developed a passion for snowboarding and it has become a huge part of his life. Sides even attended the Paralympics in South Korea and competed in Snowboard Cross and Banked Slalom racing. Now James Sides has a career as a full-time ski patroller at Cooper Mountain Resort in Colorado and he couldn’t be more excited. He spends any free time he has fly fishing, surfing, skateboarding, mountain biking, spending time with his family, and occasionally rock climbing or golfing.
Staff Sergeant James Sides is a great example of a person making the best out of a bad experience. He said, “If I hadn’t been blown up, I may not be with my wife, who brought me the greatest gift I could ever have, which is my daughter. I never would have become a Paralympian. I would not be here in the mountains as a ski patroller helping people and giving back to my community.” Even in the darkest of days James Sides will always find the light in things.