KUWAIT: Anthony Radetic poses with staff and management of 312 Cafe. -Photos Ben Garcia

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: 312 Cafe welcomed on Monday US athlete Anthony Radetic, a former US Army Black Hawk pilot and paraplegic athlete, at Dalal Complex in Salmiya. He represented his country at the Aquabike World Championship’s Kuwait Grand Prix, which was held in Kuwait for the second time. 312 Cafe is a superstore that recruits staff with special needs. Radetic was welcomed at 312 Cafe by US Embassy Cultural Attaché Katherine Garry and the 312 Cafe founders George El Khoury and Tareq Abdeen.

“Having you with us today is a privilege, and we thank you and the US Embassy for choosing our restaurant. We are very proud of Radetic as he is an inspiration to the people and our staff,” Khoury said as he welcomed Radetic and introduced him to the staff. Radetic thanked the embassy for introducing him to 312 Cafe and its staff. “It’s tough and very challenging for them, but by giving special needs people the opportunity to work as normal human beings is very commendable,” he said.

US Embassy Cultural Attache Katherine Garry welcomes Anthony Radetic as he arrives at 312 Cafe.

Radetic was injured in a motor vehicle accident in 2004. “I was 25 years old, and the doctors told me that I would never walk again, which reverberates in my mind even now,” he said. “I was in the military, doing my routine work every day, flying a Black Hawk helicopter, jumping and engaging myself in sports. I have been to war zones, but getting this news from doctors that I would never walk again was a nightmare. It changed everything. All regular activities I was enjoying every day were shattered and my life changed entirely. The things that I loved could no longer be performed again, like brushing my teeth. It was a huge challenge and it took me years to accept and figure out what to do next,” he said.

“I had to face reality and went on to discover various sports that could be played by people in a wheelchair. I tried the aquabike (jet ski) and felt that it was great, because I knew the sport and could race and compete with normal guys. So I concentrated in aquabike sports; it empowered me, as if I was a normal person. We all want to be recognized as normal beings,” he pointed out.

Radetic was asked about his experience in Kuwait in participating in the jet ski competition. “It was an amazing experience to compete here in Kuwait. People here are very hospitable, generous, positive, gracious and kind. The Aquabike Grand Prix in which I participated was one of the best. The races were all well planned and professionally handled. Although this was my first race in Kuwait, I liked the experience very much,” he added.

Katherine Garry took pride in Radetic and his accomplishments and recognition as a paraplegic athlete. “He is not just a great aquabike racing champion, but also an inspiration to everyone. Sports diplomacy is a part of the US State Department’s activities throughout the world. He came here in his capacity as a US athlete and competitor. We are grateful for meeting him and introducing him to the local community,” she said.

Garry noted that last month, US Ambassador to Kuwait Alina L Romanowski hosted a disability rights roundtable at the US Embassy with Khoury and Abdeen, the founders of the 312 Cafe. “312 Cafe employs people with disabilities by giving them hope, opportunity and a new life. We invited Anthony to meet the people behind this cafe and the people employed in the cafe. Kuwait is almost back to normal now and we are seeing a lot of outdoor activities and events, but we are also very much aware of the COVID-19 protocols.

“As the cultural calendar here in Kuwait opens up, I’m looking forward to meeting more of my colleagues and especially meeting more Kuwaitis and just seeing what opportunities arise.”  The name 312 Cafe was derived from the soul of people with disabilities, as the International Day of Disabled Persons is observed annually on Dec 3 (3/12), based on a proclamation that was signed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly.