PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- Nobody has ever crossed the Mississippi River blindfolded, handcuffed and shackled, but a Parris Island adventure seeker nicknamed “Mr. Unstoppable” is training to be the first.
Jay Platt, a former Marine combat instructor of water survival is confident he can complete the swim, partially because of his background in the military where he received and instructed water survival training.
“The swim I’ll do in November is what you learn in the Marine Corps,” Platt said. “It’s called a survival stroke.
You want to do it as slowly as possible to expend as little energy as possible. As for my feet, I’ll have to use a dolphin kick.”
Platt said that in the old days, MCIWS instructors would blindfold themselves, tie their hands behind their backs, tie their feet together, and jump into the indoor pool from the rafters, demonstrating to the recruits they had nothing to fear in the water as long as they used an effective technique and remained relaxed.
“That’s how I learned to swim this way,” Platt said.
Platt was medically retired from the Marine Corps as a gunnery sergeant in 1998, but went on to hike the Appalachian Trail and become one of only three men in history to complete the mile-and-a-half swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco in cuffs and shackles. But that time the cuffs were in front, and he didn’t have a blindfold.
On this next objective, to counteract the blindfold, Platt will have a safety swimmer behind him who can offer verbal directions. Though the distance is only six tenths of a mile, the southbound pull of the current will make the total swim an estimated 1.6 miles.
Still, Platt has to overcome a great deal more than the distance, chains and cuffs to do what he does. He has a rare disease called Von Hippel Lindau Syndrome that caused him to go blind in his left eye in 1986, and he had the eye removed in 1995. He also survived spinal tumors, kidney cancer and four brain tumors.
One of his brain tumors, which is malignant, is still in his brain and affects his balance and speech. Still, this hasn’t stopped him from touring the country as a successful motivational speaker.
Regarding the syndrome, Platt said “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it’s made me a much better person. It gave me a better perspective and I appreciate life more.”
Though his active service is behind him, he is still married to a Marine here and he speaks to wounded warriors to help them overcome adversities brought on by their injuries.
“Maybe they’re missing a limb, but not only can they be parts of society, but they can do all sorts of great things. I like to show people that no matter what obstacles are in your way you can overcome them.”