Thursday, September 28, 2017

U.S., Denmark Battle for Medals in Invictus Games Rugby Semifinal

By Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity

TORONTO, Sept. 28, 2017 — Overturned wheelchairs, strong blocking and speed scoring were showcased as national teams competed here at the Mattamy Athletics Centre during preliminary matches leading to today’s rugby semifinals at the 2017 Invictus Games.

The United Kingdom takes on Australia at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, and then Denmark takes on the U.S. at 6 p.m. EDT to determine who goes on to the bronze match at 8:15 p.m. EDT and the gold match at 9:15 p.m. EDT. The U.S. is the defending rugby champion from last year’s Invictus Games.

“We’re looking to defend our title. We’re not giving anything up. If a team wants it, they’ve got to come get it from us,” said medically retired Marine Corps Sgt. Anthony McDaniel, U.S. rugby team captain. “We have good communication and each other’s backs; picking each other up and helping each other out. We’ve got a solid team. It’s all defense and then we just execute on offense. It’s going to be a lot of fun for everybody.”

McDaniel said about half the team played in last year’s game. “We’re balancing out the lineups. It’s working well,” he said. “The new guys are listening to the guys who have been playing for a few years, putting them in the right positions in order to put our team in the right position.”

McDaniel said communication is a key factor to the team’s success. “Win, lose or draw, we stick together,” he said. “We always communicate. We have each other’s back, and it’s a good group of guys, as always. No matter who’s on the team, no matter what year, we always play well together.”

The U.S. team lost its first pool match to the U.K., but came back to win against France and Italy. The U.K. and Denmark went undefeated. Australia won two of its matches but lost to Denmark.

U.K. Team

According to fans, other competitors and Danish rugby team captain army Cpl. Mark Peters, the U.K.’s rugby team is favored to win. Stuart Robinson, the U.K. rugby team captain and a medically retired British Army corporal, said his team has been doing really well.

“The game against the U.S. was probably our hardest game. We actually played pretty well and came away with a victory and then the next two games, Italy and the Ontario [Canada] select team, again, both powerful opposition, but we came away with good results,” he said. “We gelled together as a team and got the cobwebs blown away.”

He said strength and depth on the squad is the U.K.’s biggest strength. “We don’t rely on just one player. We’ve got a lot of different players who can bring something else to the game and for them to come on and perform in every single game that we’ve played, it just shows how strong and deep our squad is,” he said.

Robinson said about half of his team competed last year at Invictus in Orlando, Florida, and three members also competed at the first Invictus Games in London in 2014.

“We’ve got a bit of experience but it’s always good to bring new blood in and give them a bit of opportunity to compete, as well,” he said.

The U.K. has a strong offense, Robinson said but other teams shouldn’t discount its defense. “We’re quite optimistic about our chances but the semifinal will be a tough game, and we’re not counting our chickens, just yet,” he said. “We are looking forward to playing and hopefully coming away with a victory.”

Like the U.S. team, the U.K. team has a strong team ethos, Robinson said. “We’re military; we’re all from the same background,” he said. “We all have that same team ethos where we work together and look out for one another. The teamwork is just amazing. We’ve been together now for about 12 months. We’ve bonded quite well and for us to come out here and compete on such a large stage, we can show just how together we are.”


Peters is confident about his team’s chances.

“We played pretty well. We had a plan and executed the plans almost perfectly,” he said. “We knew what we were going to play and how we were going to play it. We weren’t sure what Australia would do but we knew if we played our game, we would have a good chance of beating them, and we did.”

The Denmark team’s biggest strength is its speed, Peters said. “We have tremendous speed all around,” he said. “We also have good stamina. So if we can just maintain our speed, the other team is going to get tired.”

Last year, Denmark took the silver medal against the U.S. at the Invictus Games. Denmark faces off again with the U.S. in the semifinals.

“Every year, the U.S. looks strong, but I’ve been watching the U.K. and they are strong,” Peters said. “They’re probably the favorites to win this. We’re going to have fun and try to go as far as we can. These three games were a lot of fun for us. Everybody is almost placed equally all the way around so it’s perfect. We have a good lineup.”


Camaraderie among the competing teams “is amazing,” Robinson said. “We’re all from a military background and we all compete on such a massive stage. We’re all here for the same reason,” he said.

“Even before the competition, as soon as we get here, we’re looking for people from other countries that we met from years prior because you build those relationships so quick,” McDaniel said. “Even though we’ve won against each other, we’re always cheering each other on, all of the countries. We want to see everyone do well.”

He added, “Invictus is a place where anything’s possible. We’re all going through things but if you can come out here, even if you could just watch it, you can see that anything’s possible. There are so many people here with so many different types of disabilities but you see them giving their all with a smile on their face and everybody cheering them on, picking them up. It’s an extended family throughout all of the other countries. We’re all here for each other.”

Retired Navy Chief Shocked to Medal at Invictus Games

by Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity

TORONTO, Sept. 28, 2017 — As Sharona Young, a medically retired Navy chief petty officer, crossed the finish line here at the 2017 Invictus Games at High Park Sept. 26, she was in shock that she had earned her first medal in an athletic competition.

“The volunteers were like, ‘We’re walking back to the podium.’ I thought we were just going to go support everybody who won. I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go cheer them on,’ but they were like, ‘No, you’re going to the podium,’” she said in disbelief.

“I was pretty shocked,” Young said. “My goal was just to get out here, do my best and finish -- just finish strong and not get stuck anywhere. I’m pretty surprised I actually medaled.”

Young earned the bronze medal in the women’s hand cycle time trial for her disability category. She last competed in cycling and swimming during the 2013 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but didn’t medal.

Young said she had fun despite finishing out of medal range at the Warrior Games. This year, at her first Invictus Games, she is competing in wheelchair tennis and cycling.

Young said the course here is beautiful, but challenging. “It was harder than I’m used to,” she said. “I live in Orlando and there’re not many hills. It’s just a straight road and flat surface. There were lots of hills and turns.”


Young served in the Navy for 14 years as a yeoman. Her father was a Marine and her uncle served in the Army in Vietnam. She said she joined the Navy to travel the world. After 9/11, she said, her ship was one of the first to deploy off the coast of Iraq, having passed through the Suez Canal and into the Persian Gulf.

In 2013, Young was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the body. While she was transitioning out of the military, she found out about adaptive sports through Navy Safe Harbor.


“My counselor there encouraged me to go and check out the trials in Virginia. I’m like, ‘I don’t do any sports. That’s not me.’ She pushed me to go and try it out. I’m really glad she did because I love it,” she said.

Young said the support she has received at the Invictus Games has been tremendous. “I’m blown away by how supportive everyone has been and all of the encouragement I receive from all of the other athletes,” she said. “From the staff, from the volunteers, it’s been awesome and a huge help.”

For tennis, the city of Toronto provided a tennis court over a fountain at Nathan Phillips Square so the athletes would have a nice location, she said. “It was beautiful,” Young said. “It was such a nice platform that they put down for us to have matches on. I was like, ‘This is gorgeous.’ I really enjoyed tennis. I got a bunch of new tips and things to work on, what I should and shouldn’t do. It was fun.”

Young said she enjoyed having the Canadian community come out and cheer for her, giving support and thanking Team U.S. for coming to Toronto.

Adaptive Sports

Young encourages service members with disabilities to give adaptive sports a try. “Don’t be afraid of the challenges or the unknown. Just trust yourself and have fun. Focus on what you can do, what skills you have and go from there,” she said. “Come out of your comfort zone and try something new because you might end up finding something you absolutely love that you otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to experience. Try something new.”

Young said families and caregivers are essential to the athletes at Invictus.

“It’s one of the most important things because you need that rock; you need that person you can depend on when you’re in that dark place to push you or give you that little extra to get going,” she said. “Even if you don’t realize you need it, your family and support systems can see when you’re struggling before you can and be there to give you that boost.”

Young’s support system is her caregiver and sister, Nakesha, and daughter, Taylor, 11. “They mean the world to me; they are my everything,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here without them, without their help and encouragement and just the support I get on a day-to-day basis from them.”

More than 550 wounded, ill and injured service members from 17 nations compete in 12 sporting events including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball from Sept. 23 to 30 as they are cheered on by thousands of family members, friends and spectators in the Distillery District here.

One Small Act Can Save a Life

Story by Jason Bortz

The Navy’s message for Suicide Prevention Month is again “1 Small ACT.” This message promotes that simple, everyday actions can save lives by using the Navy’s ACT (Ask Care Treat) bystander intervention model.

“One life loss to suicide is one too many,” said Lt. Holly Vickers, NHP’s suicide prevention coordinator. “Our goal is to raise awareness of suicides in the military and to educate everyone on suicide warning signs and risk factors.”

There are no specific demographics associated with suicides, but there may be warning signs that can be observed by those in contact with someone contemplating suicide. Acting withdrawn, displaying decreased work performance, showing lack of focus or consuming increased amounts of alcohol may be signs of someone who needs help, but it is also possible a person will show little or no signs of suicide.

According to Vickers, if you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, the best thing to do is confront them and ask them if they are OK, which is the first part of ACT. If the person says they are thinking of committing suicide or you suspect they are, there are resources available to both individuals contemplating suicide and bystanders. Those resources include command chaplains, Fleet and Family Support Centers, physicians and social workers. Individuals can also call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text 838255, or visit for confidential, free support, 24/7.

There are many factors that may lead a person to contemplate suicide such as financial problems, relationship issues or depression, but all of these have a common factor of producing stress. Understanding and managing stress cannot only help prevent suicides, but can improve a person’s overall quality of life.

“Everyone’s stress tolerant is different,” said Lt. Louis Sanchez, a licensed clinical social worker at NHP. “If you feel you are getting stressed, take a step back, take a deep breath and work one problem at a time.”

According to Sanchez, common symptoms of stress include not coming to work on time, acting forgetful, being irritable or simply just not acting their normal self. Someone who may be happy go lucky all the time may act depressed for long periods of time or has an unusual quick temper.

“If you feel like you can’t control your stress, talk to someone that can help like a chaplain or your physician,” said Sanchez. “At Naval Hospital Pensacola, we have behavior health consultants, social workers and psychologists who can help patients learn to manage stress.”

Sanchez also recommends prioritizing events that cause stress and to find ways to relax such as exercising or doing activities you enjoy.

“When battling stress, its important take actions on items you control and make small gains rather than trying to accomplish everything at once,” said Sanchez. “It’s OK to make small gains and not everything on your to do list has to be accomplished at once.”

Established in 1826, Naval Hospital Pensacola's mission is to provide patent centered superior quality health care to those it is privileged to serve. The command is comprised of the main hospital and 10 branch health clinics across five states. To find out more, visit or download the command’s mobile app (keyword: Naval Hospital Pensacola).