Julius Schram overcomes injuries to excel in biathlon
If you put the late daredevil Evil Knievel in a room with Julius Schram, you’d figure they’d have a lot to talk about.
Certainly enough broken bones between the two of them to compare notes.
Schram, 63, of Westminster, Calif. didn’t go searching for trouble like Knievel. He didn’t leap buses and cars or even try to leap the Snake River. Rather, trouble seemed to find him. Although, to be fair, Schram hasn’t exactly spent a career in low-risk pursuits.
Julius Schram grew up in Holland for the first 12 years of his life, the son of an engineer.
When the family returned to the States, it settled in Sunland, Calif. in the Sun Valley area.
After high school, Schram enlisted in the army. He was active duty from 1975-1979, and then subsequently in active reserves. He served in the 1st Ranger Battalion, Fast Appointment Unit based out of Hunter Army Air Base in Gerogia and was deployed to the Phillipines as well to several hotspots in South America.
Schram started at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department in 1980, its investigations bureau, and was assigned to its FBI Task Force in L.A.
So work was as dangerous as active duty, and sure enough, he was ambushed on each job.
In 1991, his battalion was caught in an ambush in El Salvador. Schram was shot in the leg, the abdomen, the lung. Five-to-six feet of his intestinal tract was removed. It also began the odyssey of Schram’s knee, which was ultimately replaced several times.
In 1995, Schram was working an undercover detail, infiltrating a biker gang and making meth buys.
He shows up to make one transaction and his heart sinks. “Someone I went to high school with was in the gang,” he recalled. “I ID’d him first. It was one of those ‘Ah, shit’ moments. I tried to be hopeful. ‘Maybe he didn’t recognize me’, I thought to myself.”
Next thing Schram knew, he was on the ground. By the time backup arrived (which Schram estimates was somewhere between 6-8 minutes), both shoulders were dislocated. Both knees were broken (Again, that knee). He was beaten to an inch of his life. He took medical retirement soon thereafter.
But he was too young to retire. He liked work. His body healed over the next two years (to the extent it could heal).
He then resurfaced by hooking on with DynCorp, a military contractor. Started security work, including a year-long stint in Kosovo. And in his next job he went to Hollywood, serving as a bodyguard for the actor Will Smith.
Sheet: Is Will Smith as nice as he seems? Does his public persona match who he is in his private life?
Schram: Absolutely. A good man. Personable. Nice. But his wife was kind of the opposite.
How did this job end? If you guessed knee, you’re onto the theme. Schram said that in a paparazzi scrum, amid some pushing and shoving, he got kicked in the knee. This led to another surgery. Another six months on the sidelines.
Upon finishing another rehab stint, Julius went to work at the StubHub Center in Carson. But his right knee just continued to worsen. There was increasing pain, MRSA infections, and when the knee went septic in 2015, doctors had no choice but to remove the leg above the knee.
Which sent Julius into a profound depression.
Marriage hasn’t suited Julius. He’s tried that twice. His kids are long grown and out of the house. Daughter Misty Ann, 41, lives in Philadelphia and works for Homeland Security. Son Peter, 31, lives in Palmdale and works for Lockheed.
Schram wasn’t working. He lacked purpose. He was bored.
But then he got into hand cycling, and while he was at a hand cycling event, someone mentioned that he might also enjoy cross-country skiing. That’s when Schram first heard about Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra.
“I used to go all the time for alpine skiing,” he explained. “But I’d never been cross-country skiing.”
In December, 2015, Schram attended a Wounded Warriors program in Mammoth. The purpose of the program was to introduce participants to a lot of different activities, and see which ones they gravitated to.
From there, Maggie Palchak of DSES suggested Schram participate in an upcoming biathlon camp, which was led by Retired Army Capt. Rob Rosser, who runs the Casper Mountain Biathlon Club in Casper, Wyo.
It was such an immediate fit that Schram’s second race ever happened to be at the U.S. Nationals.
He now competes all over the world in biathlon events in distances of up to 30K, and has also visited Mammoth and DSES the past several years to participate in the Sierra Cycle Challenge, the Gran Fondo and Operation High Altitude.
One thing’s for sure. When Julius gets to the starting line these days, fellow racers better “Fear the Beard.” Because that knee is no longer going to hold Schram back.
The National Wounded Warrior Center, proposed to be built on the Cerro Coso college campus in Mammoth Lakes, would allow Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra to provide support services to more than 300 veterans and their families each year.
The 36-room facility would provide transitional housing designed for veterans, and include areas for recreation, learning and dining.
Veterans would also have access to educational and vocational programs, wellness and PTSD management training and therapuetic opportunities.
DSES is in the midst of an $18 million capital campaign. See the facing page for details.