Special thanks to Michael Molinaro of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit for sharing his most recent article with us:
Ability rather than disability
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Some of today's wounded warriors have lost limbs, feeling in their arms or legs, or the use of both eyes but they haven't lost the feeling of inspiration, motivation or commitment to succeed while still serving their country.
Wounded Soldiers from around the Army came to Fort Benning and the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Mar. 29-Apr. 1 to learn from the military's best shooters in preparation for the inaugural Warrior Games. Air Rifle and Pistol are among the athletic events wounded, ill and injured servicemembers from all branches will compete in at the inaugural games May 10-14 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"I'm really excited to get out there and see what this is going to be like because I guarantee it's not going to be like anything else that I've ever done in my career," said Staff Sgt. Rachelle Renaud, 1st Battalion, Warrior Transition Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas. "I am really looking forward to it."
The Warrior Games provide a focal event to empower the incorporation of athletics into military wounded warrior programs, and provide an opportunity to introduce Paralympic sports to injured service members. Warrior Games is an effort to inspire recovery, capitalize on physical fitness and promote opportunities for growth and achievement among wounded troops.
"What we have to do with our servicemembers is inspire them to reach for and achieve a rich and productive future, to defeat their illness or injury, whatever lies in their way, to maximize their abilities and know that they can have a rich and fulfilling life beyond what has happened to them in service to their nation," said Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commander, U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command.
The Soldiers attending the training camp relished the chance to meet new Soldiers and break away from their sometimes grueling rehabilitation schedules. They want to look forward to something other than another doctor's appointment. Renaud said that it's easy for Soldiers to feel alone and start down a narrow path of darkness, but the notion of the games shows that people are inspired to help them.
"It's so easy to isolate yourself then think that nobody understands," said Renaud. "But a lot of people do understand."
A veteran of two deployments to Iraq with the 720th Military Police Battalion, Renaud endured severe pain in her back that led to a double lumbar fusion on her spine. She hasn't regained the feeling in her left leg but still has the spirit to compete and overcome her injuries.
"(The Warrior Games) has inspired me. One of the things, as far as my routine, that has changed is that instead of just going home and doing nothing, I'm motivated to go out and go exercise, go to the gym-go do something to prepare. It really distracts from everything else that is going on. It's that moment when I don't have to think about anything."
USAMU Soldiers taught them the intricacies of the air rifle and pistol, as well as proper marksmanship fundamentals. Some of the Soldiers who attended the week-long clinic chose to compete in shooting events because they are good at handling a gun or have an affinity for shooting. All of them agreed that the chance to meet Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors in the same condition that they are has them motivated to get to Colorado.
"The challenge to compete with these other Soldiers who have gone through similar experiences and have overcome all of the difficulties that I have been able to overcome is very exciting," said Capt. Juan Guerrero, C Co, WTB, Fort Sam Houston.
Severely injured in both legs from an explosively-formed projectile while on a patrol south of Baghdad in 2007, Guerrero understands that there may be Soldiers wary of competing with their injuries but offers some sound advice.
"They may think they aren't going to be able to do it, but until they try it, they won't know for sure. One of the things as a Soldier is that you have to try it first. If you try it and succeed, then you go on from there. If you try and you fail, you try again.
"It's a long process, but eventually, you'll get to the point where you'll be able to do stuff you didn't think you could do, just like I did."
As the week progressed, the anxiousness and enthusiasm to get on with the games was evident. There was no mention of treatments or appointments, just encouragement and excitement. There was a practice match and they rooted for each other. With the games still more than a month away, the intent of the games seems to already be working.
"It's an honor to be here and amongst a lot of these guys," Renaud said. "I'm so humbled by them. They have seen it all and it's a great experience-very uplifting. I wish everyone the best of luck and hope everyone enjoys their time and gets the most out of this."
The USAMU’s mission is to raise the standard of marksmanship proficiency and combat readiness throughout the Army by sharing knowledge gained from competing and winning in national/ international competitions, research and development and advanced training programs while enhancing the Army’s recruiting effort through an active public information and public relations program.
For more information on the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, contact the Public Affairs Office at (706) 545-5436, Michael.Molinaro@usaac.army.mil or www.USAMU.com.