Military News

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Warrior's particpate in adaptive sports camp

by Christina Carmen Crea
Northwest Guardian

8/26/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Commander Col. Daniel S. Morgan calls participants of the JBLM Warrior Care Adaptive Sports Camp the "toughest warriors out there."

"I can't think of a better reason to come together and overcome adversity," Morgan said. "The people out here today are warriors...we asked them to do things in battle that might wound themselves and they had no fear. And today, they are out here being competitive -- they don't want free chicken, they're here to win. They have overcame things most people haven't."

The Warrior Care Camp runs August 25-28 here and is a partnership between the Air Force Wounded Warrior program, Madigan Army Medical Center and the Warrior Transition Battalion supported by the Western Regional Medical Command, and JBLM's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation

The event is an opportunity for all wounded, ill and injured service members to engage in friendly competition. Wounded Warriors from JBLM and veterans from the northwest region were invited to participate in the camp events on McChord Field and on Lewis Main.

The events include cycling on McChord Field's Perimeter Road and wheelchair basketball and seated volleyball at the McChord Fitness Center. There is also swimming at Soldiers Field House, archery and air rifle shooting at the MWR tent, and track and field at Cowan and Memorial Stadiums, all on Lewis Main.

Sixty percent of the participants have combat-related injuries and 40 percent have noncombat related injuries. Some participants are experienced adaptive sport athletes, while others are experiencing a Warrior Care Camp for the first time.

Marsha Gonzales, deputy chief of the Air Force Personnel Warrior and Survivor Care Division, said it's the first time they've been to JBLM.

"We picked the right location to support our wounded Airmen and we hope to make this an annual event here in the northwest region," Gonzales said. "There are 90 Air Force and 35 Army participants here for this event."

Technical Sergeant Ryan Pinney, who was in the Air Force from 2000-2014, said adaptive sports has "given him another mission in life."

"This is my second year being involved, and this has opened my eyes and given me another mission because when we get hurt, we lose our missions," Pinney said. "I'm a cyclist doing that, I realized I could still do something despite my spinal cord injury."

Pinney said he feels a real sense of community at these events.

"You know you can call the people you meet here whenever you need to and we share similar injuries and problems in life," Pinney said. "When I got my injury, I wondered 'How am I going to be able to care for my wife now?' -- but there are other people who have been through it and it has helped strengthen my recovery."

Pinney has won several gold medals in cycling in other competitions and plans to keep competing.

It was Sgt. Cherry Maurice's first time competing in a cycling event.

"I think adaptive sports is inspirational," Maurice said. "I saw a friend do this and thought, 'If they can do it, so can I. I also love the challenge of it...they said I would never walk again, but here I am, surrounded by people motivating and pushing me no matter what my injuries are."

Maurice has paralysis from her lower back to her feet after wear and tear on her body from two Afghanistan tours. Once she finished her first race today, she was laughing, smiling and said she was having a lot of fun.

Maurice is currently still on active duty in the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson, Colo., and has served since 2011.

Senior Airman Griselda Calderon, who served from 2011-2014, said it's "nice to be able to express yourself and not be an outcast here."

"This is my first time doing this, and I've become friends with these people...they are closer than family," Calderon said. "They're more helpful than family because your family often times want the old you back...but you're not the same person after a serious injury."

Calderon was hit by a drunken driver and said it's hard to walk, and she suffers memory loss, too, and is almost always in pain.

"I have good days and I have bad days...but I do feel lucky to be alive," Calderon said.

Staff Sgt. Carlos Delgado, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, who is a JBLM volunteer at the event, said he wanted to use his 26-day leave wisely.

"When I was in Hawaii as a flight medic, I picked up a lot of wounded Soldiers, and because I've seen so much of that, I wanted to come here and see Soldiers who were getting back on their feet and getting on with their life," Delgado said. "Although I don't know these Soldiers prior to this, it gives me hope. I also have a brother with Down syndrome, so even before I was a medic, I knew how to be patient. I think everyone should be treated with equality no matter what disability they have."

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