Soldier's Army spirit to be on display at Warrior Games
April 24, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- During the last 16 years, Keoki Smythe has accumulated a multitude of injuries that have led him to qualify for the Warrior Games.
"For me it is a little bit different, because I don't have that traumatic injury from down range, my injuries are an accumulation of deploying, jumping out of airplanes, ruck-running, and just being in the Army," said Sgt. 1st Class Smythe, Company B, Warrior Transition Battalion. "I was introduced to cycling through the WTB when I did the Ride 2 Recovery.
"It was more motivation for me, because I am with peers that have injuries, and I am able to relate and talk with them," Smythe added. "The ones that really stand out are the double amputees that hand cycle, and they are just hammering it home. I am just trying to finish the ride, and these guys are like, 'hurry up, let's go.' Now that I am going through the process of a medical evaluation board and I want to stay in; it is a way to show my command and peers that I am still viable as a Soldier."
Through sheer determination, Smythe has already set the standard of what it takes to make Team Army for the Warrior Games in the cycling event.
"He is that Omega, he is that distance machine," said Master Sgt. Jarrett Jongema, noncommissioned officer in charge, Warrior Games. "He is one of those guys, when I bring him to the [training camps], I use him for the assessment. You have to be able to ride as well as him. People selected to the team have to be able to ride at his level, and that is how he was selected [by becoming the top in the event]."
The Warrior Games are designed to introduce injured service members and veterans to paralympic sports competition, and encourage them to stay physically active when they return to their local communities, following the event.
The Games are comprised of five U.S. teams, representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations, as well as one international team from the U.K. Teams will compete in seven sports including: archery, cycling, shooting, sitting-volleyball, swimming, track & field, and wheelchair basketball.
Smythe's positive and humble attitude has brought inspiration to others.
"He has such a great jovial attitude and you never see him get mad, but I like how the minute he gets on that bike, he changes," Jongema said. "It is not that the smiles go away, but he becomes so focused on what he is doing. That says a lot for me in terms of selecting someone. The other athletes gravitate towards his capability and listen to him; even my coaches."
Smythe's positive outlook on life, and his embodiment of the professional Soldier, leaves an example for others to look up to.
"When I look at him, I see someone who upholds the Army Values and is a good friend," said Sgt. 1st Class Noel Vargas, platoon sergeant, Company B, Warrior Transition Battalion. "He is a go-getter. He is one of the guys that you want to follow. If for some reason you ever doubt yourself, he is the first one to pick you back up and give you motivation to continue on. I think he is a model Soldier, especially for Soldiers in the WTB, the ones that, either physically or mentally, are at a disadvantage."
Vargas said that Smythe exemplifies the 'never quit' attitude. "He is in the Warrior Games, and I applaud him for that, because he found something instead of giving up."
Smythe said his goals are to do the best he can for Team Army, hopefully making the podium for cycling and sitting-volleyball, to enjoy his time with teammates, and making friends with the other teams that he will meet at the games.
"The Marines, Air Force, Navy/Coast Guard, and the Brits will be at the games; it will be interesting to see what life is like for them, the obstacles that they deal with, and being able to relate to what we all go through," Smythe said.