They say that talking about yourself is easy. For me, I also find it to be awkward. Easy, sure, who knows me better than me? But, it is a strange feeling to talk about yourself and most of you do not know me or have only worked with me for a short period of time. For those who have worked with me, I hope that you have seen my drive, my passion, and most critically, the importance of the Soldiers in our Battalion. If your haven’t seen it yet, I hope you see it here.
I’ve always been motivated, but my drive and passion were ignited in a new way in March 2015. I was mobilized to the Conus Replacement Center (CRC), Fort Bliss, Texas and worked in the BN S-1 Section, as a Human Resources Sergeant. Texas was a whole different environment, and to become acclimated to the El Paso weather, elevation, and environment, our Section began running up to 10 miles a week and participated in Military Essential Fitness. M.E.F is like CrossFit, but with an Army name.
When we took our APFT in April, I was surprised by the results. I wasn’t surprised that I had passed, I was surprised that I had done so well. I think it was the running at the Parade Field (a 3.1 mile trip) and McKelligan Canyon (a 5 mile trip), and the running I continued to do on my own time.
In May I started to have left and right hip pain. Thinking maybe it was my shoes, I got new ones. After breaking them in, I was still having hip issues. I went to the doctor – a trip resulting in a temporary profile, anti-inflammatory medicine, ointment, and instructions to rest my leg.
I did as the doctors instructed and didn’t run. When my section did PT, I walked or lifted what I could. After my month of rest, I went back to it, fully involved in section PT and I fell in love with running, as strange as it sounds. It felt like a drug, I wanted it, I needed it, and could not get enough of it. However, I was still in agony, I went through Physical Therapy, and felt better for a couple of months before I started to limp around again.
The next round of doctor visits resulted in an MRI done in October. When the results came back, there was a Labra tear in my right hip and after talking to my doctor, he sent me to the Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Lanzi.
Dr. Lanzi set a course of treatment involving physical therapy 3 days a week partnered with medication, for 3 months. If my hip did not respond, we would move on to hip injections and talk surgery. In January 2016 a meeting with my Physical Therapist and Surgeon resulted in the decision to go ahead with surgery. I was nearing the end of my mobilization and had to make the decision to stay on Active Duty, and be transferred to the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB).
It was right before my orders came to the WTB, in March 2016, that I met with a friend of mine who had another friend coming to Fort Bliss for the Army Trials. I had no idea what the Army Trials were and was surprised to learn there were around 100 wounded, injured, or ill Soldiers and Veterans converging on Fort Bliss to compete for a spot on the Army Team for the Department of Defense Warrior Games.
My friend and I attended the event and watched the Track & Field portion of the trials. I saw men and women amputees running with their blades on, I saw wheelchair racers, going full force, it was an inspiring moment and one of the coolest things I had ever witnessed! Turning to my friend I vowed, “I am going to be here next year, competing with these awesome athletes!” I found the (and liked) the Warrior Care and Transition and DoD Warrior Games Facebook pages, and started to friend some of the athletes I met.
By now I was assigned to WTB Fort Bliss, had my surgery scheduled, and had met with my Triad Team (Nurse Case Manager, Doctors, and WTB Team) to brief them on my plan was to remain in the Army, heal, and learn how to be physically active in a healthy way. I had my hip surgery on 8 April 2016, went to my physical therapy sessions, and meetings with my surgeon and WTB Doctors. I was on crutches for over 10 weeks but I got to the point where I no longer needed to have crutches to walk, and although I walked with a slight limp for a couple of weeks, I got better, day by day.
When you are enrolled in WTB, they have you participate in Adaptive Sports and Reconditioning. Adaptive Sports are a wide variety of sports and other relaxation techniques that a Soldier in Transition (ST) can participate in, provided they have ok from the doctors of course. I was ok’d for air rifle, pistol and archery. I was encouraged by a fellow ST to try out the compound bow. I fell in love instantly with the rifle and compound bow. I felt like it had been a hidden talent that I didn’t know I possessed.
In August 2016, The U.S. Air Force held a camp for Wounded Airmen and Wounded Soldiers. It was a week-long event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Myself and the ST who encouraged me to get into Archery went together. When we arrived, we were put in different groups, mostly set up of Airmen and a few Soldiers. In my group, there was a young Airmen named “V”. V had just retired from the Air Force the week prior to arriving at camp. She sported a purple wheelchair and bright pink hair and had been in a mountain bike accident. She is why I went and put my all in every event we were taught. I thought to myself, “if she can get out and do every sport (except seated volleyball) and give it her all, I need to do the same thing.”
I have met some pretty inspiring people in my military career, but, this woman, this Warrior, she gave me the strength and encouragement to try everything out. Because of her, I can’t wait to compete and hopefully see some of the ladies or gentleman from my group at the Games this year and cheer them on.
As it turns out, the Coaches who were there to teach and guide us saw my potential in most of the sporting events. I have found a love for not only Air Rifles, Pistols and Archery, but also a love for Field (Shot Put and Discus), Swimming, Wheelchair Racing, Wheelchair Basketball.
With the positive and great feedback I got from the Coaches at the Care Event, I found myself looking for grants for the equipment and enlisting the help of my husband to find places where I can practice for events at home. I want to make a good and lasting impression on the Army Coaches that will be at Regionals and then if I do great, at the Trials in 2017.
My ultimate goal after going through the Adaptive Reconditioning Program, had been to make the 2017 Army Warrior Games Team. I love competing, but more than that, I love the camaraderie of the team. We help each other, not just by cheering each other on, but by listening, watching, talking about the injuries that we may see or may not see. I want to compete next to some of the greatest athletes in the Army.
Adaptive Reconditioning boosted my spirits, boosted my ability to find enjoyment in something other than running and lifting weights, and has ultimately helped me heal.
In October 2016, I got my fit for duty memo signed and attended the Army Regional Trials, in Ft. Hood, TX. I competed in Archery, Air Rifle & Pistol, Swimming (all events), Cycling (Upright), Wheelchair Basketball, Track (Wheelchair Sprints/Racers), Field (Seated Shot Put and Discus), but opted to sit out of Seated Volleyball.
The Army trials went quite well, and found a whole new family of people to connect with, including the Coaches, and other WTB Staffers but after the Regional Trials were completed, my time at the WTB came to close and I out-processed and headed home.
Without the WTB, finding the adaptive equipment was not an easy task until I discovered the Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities. Turnstone opens their doors to Veterans with a program called Healthy Minds and Body.
With Healthy Minds and Body, you get six months where you can work out at their facility for free, and there are Personal Trainers and Physical Therapists on hand to help in any way you need. The work out equipment they have is adaptive to an able bodied person or a person in a wheelchair, indoor swimming pools, and indoor track, basketball courts and an amazing facility. Once a month, we meet and we do something active, or we have guest speakers come in and talk to us about benefits, how to eat healthier, and an adaptive sport.
Turnstone is a U.S. Paralympic Site, and the U.S. Paralympic Goalball Team not only lives right on campus, but trains and works out there at Turnstone so I have been able to work on my strength and conditioning with EJ, one of the team coaches.
An organization called Crossroads Wounded Warrior Archery Foundation provided me with a Matthew’s Menace II compound bow that is on loan for two years, and after that will become mine, I bought an Upright Cycling Bike to train on and take with me to the Games, and I am also trying to find grants and other avenues to help me on my way.
I was invited to Attend the Army Trials at Fort Bliss, TX 27 March-7 April 2017 and this time signed up for every event including Seated Volleyball. Although I did not make it to the Archery Finals, I did not let any of that discourage me from what I wanted to do and accomplish.
The first competition was Cycling, I had my bike from when I was an ST at Ft. Bliss and I put my heart and soul into that 20K, finishing in 50:54.25 and shaving off 9 minutes from the Regional Trials time in Ft. Hood, Texas and winning the Silver Medal. I cried, I was overwhelmed by my performance and the sheer fact of getting a medal and standing next to two other spectacular ladies who won Gold and Bronze.
I went to the other events to watch and cheer my teammates on, and although I didn’t make it to the Wheelchair Basketball finals either, I understood why when watching the other more experienced players. They were incredible to watch and if you ever get the chance to watch, I highly recommend it!
In Seated Volleyball we relearned the basic skills and played three nights, competing against each team. It was so much fun, and I finally got my serve right on the third night. I don’t remember the last time I just smiled and laughed so much, it is a fun and intense sport to play. The next completion was Track and Field. I achieved several personal bests in Field, not enough to medal, but enough for me to be proud of my performance and to continue to work on my strength and abilities.
For the Track portion, I had the perfect chair, I think the little blue Racer was made specifically for me! We raced in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1500m. I won the Silver Medal in the 100, 200, 400, and 800 meter races, and the Bronze in the 1500 meter race. I love being in that little blue racer, and even though I am confined in a small space, I feel as if I am in my element and can only go up and improve my skills and adapt to the racer and the track or road I happen to be on.
The final competition was Swimming, I know how to swim, and although I am no Michael Phelps in the pool, I feel graceful, smooth, and calm. I participated in the 50m Freestyle, 100m Freestyle, the 50m Backstroke, and the 50m Breast Stroke. I won the Bronze in the 50m Back Stroke and Breast Strokes, and I took home the Silver Medal in the 100m Freestyle. I won a total of 6 Silver Medals and 3 Bronze Medals. I was just beside myself with pride and a sense of belonging.
I received a call on Tuesday, 11 April 2017 notifying me that I had been selected to be one of 40 people to represent Team Army at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games hosted by the U.S. Navy in Chicago, IL, 30 June-9 July 2017. I have accepted the honor to not only represent Team Army, but, the US Army Reserve, the 1st BN, 330th REGT, the 95th DIV and 108th Training Command.
I will be competing in swimming, cycling, and track for Wheelchair Racing. It is an honor, a privilege and a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to follow my dream. I am also looking forward to connecting with other Service Members, and even if they are not Team Army, sharing a bond that will last a lifetime.
This opportunity isn’t something I take lightly. I get to show the world that even if you are injured, you can adapt, overcome, and move forward. I also want to show people that not all wounds are visible, that not everyone was injured or wounded in combat, that there are silent wounds. I want to show the world that people do not have disabilities, they have abilities of their own. The words “I can’t” are no longer in my vocabulary, I can and I will do anything and everything I set my mind to.
I find the adaptive community to be inspiring and motivating. They, like me, want to be seen and viewed as people, not to be judged by what they look like on the outside. We are strong athletes, we are a community and we represent you as well as ourselves as we compete and grow.
I hope this article inspires you wherever you are and whatever your goals are. I could have given up and quit, but I did not. I AM ADAPTIVE, I AM TEAM ARMY!
For more information check out:
https://wct.army.mil/ (U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition, Head of WTB’s)
https://www.dodwarriorgames.com/ (DoD Warrior Games)