More than 40 wounded,ill or injured soldiers and veterans from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and Washington were at Fort Hood last week to compete in Regional Medical Command Central’s regional trials.
Hosting the event was Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center’s Warrior Transition Unit.
During the week-long trials, which ran from Oct. 16-22, the soldier-athletes competed in archery, cycling, track and field, air guns and swimming to earn an invitation to the 2017 Army trials, a prelude to the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games.
Created in 2010, Warrior Games showcase the resilient spirit of today’s wounded, ill and injured service members in their battle to overcome significant physical and behavioral injuries and adjust to their new condition.
For Army veteran Robert Greene, who competed in the past two Army trials, adaptive sports have given him a purpose for living.
“After my injury, I was in a dark place,” said the former staff sergeant who was previously assigned to Brook Army Medical Center’s WTU in San Antonio. “Adaptive sports have shown me that you can still accomplish your goals or whatever you set your mind to do, but in a different way.”
Greene admits that he still finds it hard sometimes to get up early and train, but the win is what motivates him to continue.
“In the back of your mind, you think of how far you have come,” he said. “If you want to compete and actually win, you have to make that sacrifice, because if you don’t, someone else will.”
According to the Department of Defense Warrior Care program, competitions like Warrior Games aid in holistic healing of wounded, ill and injured service members throughout their recovery and rehabilitation process: Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and socially. The outcomes of physical activity as part of the rehabilitation process include higher self-esteem, lower stress levels, lower secondary medical conditions and the pursuit of higher education and higher levels of employment.
Staff Sgt. Tiffany Rodriguez, who is assigned to Brook Army Medical Center, credits adaptive sports and reconditioning activities in her speedy recovery from a total hip replacement and the good news that she has been found fit to return to duty.
“Adaptive sports has helped me become strong physically, so it only took me eight weeks to recover from my surgery,” she said, adding that a few weeks later she was well enough to compete in Fort Bliss’s 2016 Army trials this past June.
Additionally, participation in the DoD Warrior Games allows service members and veterans to build a supportive social network, developing relationships with other athletes with similar disabilities, giving them a sense of community and acceptance on their path to recovery.
Building that relationship and interacting with other disabled veterans motivated retired Staff Sgt. Nick Hammett to participate in this year’s regional trials.
“I want to coach archery,” said Hammett, who helped develop the WTU’s archery program at Fort Hood. “To be a better coach, you have to compete to know what competition is like. You also have to lose to win so you take those losses to the next level so you can coach other athletes to win.”
The former WTU cadre said adaptive sports also have helped him personally.
“Adaptive sports has always been a huge motivator in my life because I’ve seen people who are able bodied compete in sports, and I wanted to be out there, too,” he said, adding that his debilitating arthritis severely restricts his athletic endeavors. “I saw that as a challenge to see what I can do and how I can adapt myself to be a good player in sports.”
Hammett, like so many other athletes who compete in adaptive sporting events like the Warrior Games and U.S. Paralympics, said it is really all about focus and determination.
“It’s the challenge of finding that motivation in you to be the best you can be,” said the avid archer. “Sure I have limitations, but I choose to not focus on my disabilities, but to focus on what abilities I do have.”
Training camps for each sport, along with sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball, also were held throughout the week to introduce the athletes to adaptive sports, as well as to learn new skills and techniques to improve their current skill level current. This is the third year the Fort Hood unit hosted the regional trials.