Sunday, May 12, 2013

Navy Warrior Games Vet Shares His Story, Recovery

By Jason Kelly
Navy Live Blog

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2013 – Yesterday, members of Team Navy began sports competitions at the 2013 Warrior Games against other wounded, ill or injured service members and veterans from across the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sonny Lemerande, who’d served as a hospital corpsman and was wounded in Afghanistan, puts up a shot during basketball practice for the Navy's Warrior Games basketball team at State College, Pa., April 4, 2013 U.S. Navy photo by EJ Hersom

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Throughout the event, which concludes May 16, the service members and veterans will compete for the gold in adaptive sports of track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.

Warrior Games wheelchair basketball athlete and retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sonny Lemerande, who’d served as a hospital corpsman and was wounded in Afghanistan, shares his story, his recovery, and what the Warrior Games mean to him.

Lemerande’s comments are as follows:

“This year marks my fourth Warrior Games. Once again, I will compete alongside other members of Team Navy in Colorado Springs. I have been part of the Warrior Games from the start. Every experience has been a big honor and very rewarding.

“However, it was the first Warrior Games in 2010 that made the most significant impact on my life.

“In 2009, during my second deployment as a Navy corpsman, I was wounded in Afghanistan. My Humvee hit a pressure plate anti-tank mine, injuring my right leg. Although I didn’t feel the effects until I returned home, my experiences in combat changed me and later brought about post-traumatic stress disorder. My wounds -- both visible and invisible -- still affect me today.

“A year after the incident, I was working a physical therapist in Twentynine Palms, Calif. I was pretty bitter. Every day, I met with service members who were ill or had been injured, but I thought anyone who wasn’t wounded in combat wasn’t truly a wounded warrior. I thought their struggles couldn’t really compare to what men and women were experiencing on the battlefield -- that made me angry.

“The 2010 Warrior Games were very beneficial to me. They opened my eyes and helped me let go of some of those feelings. I met teammates -- like Jim Castaneda -- who altered my perspective about what it means to be a wounded warrior and to fight each day to make sure your illness or injury doesn’t get the better of you.

“Jimmy is a retired boatswain’s mate who suffered a stroke while his ship was underway near the Philippines. Though his recovery has sometimes been pretty tough, he always has a positive attitude no matter what obstacles he has to face. Jimmy cracks me up. I will never forget when he was playing seated volleyball at the Warrior Games -- he unexpectedly blocked a very hard spike and then was completely amazed by what he had done.

“That’s what the Warrior Games are like. They are a great rehabilitation tool for wounded warriors. They remind you that life’s not over just because you are ill or were injured. They show you that you can still surprise yourself.

“Adaptive athletics and programs like Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor have helped me cope. When things get difficult, attending the Warrior Games or a sports camp is a respite from life’s stresses. There, I can hang out with people who really understand me, and who have supported me for four of the most challenging years of my life.

“For that, I am so grateful.”

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