OTF Soldier Story for May 2, 2011 - Sgt. 1st Class Landon Ranker
Current Unit: Headquarters Section, Fort Campbell Warrior Transition Battalion
Current Position: Battalion Enhance Warrior Physical Training Noncommissioned Officer–in-Charge
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Campbell, Ky.
Hometown: Menifee and Encinitas, Calif.
Years of Service: 19
After leaving last year’s Warrior Games with two gold medals, Sgt. 1st Class Landon Ranker is returning this year with a new goal. Next month, he’ll be vying for the title of “Ultimate Champion,” an honor awarded to the competitor who accumulates the most points in a decathlon-style event.
For Ranker, the Warrior Games are more than a chance to prove his own athletic abilities; they also represent an opportunity to be surrounded by other brave Wounded Warriors who do not let their injuries hold them back.
“All the athletes competing at the Warrior Games are there because they’re doing something that a lot of injured people think they can’t do,” he said. “It’s very inspirational to be around all the other Wounded Warriors out there. You see what other people do who have so many more strikes against them – it makes you want to go out and climb Mount Everest.”
Encouraged by his fellow Wounded Warriors, Ranker is grateful for the chance to compete at the Warrior Games and prove that wounded, ill and injured service members are capable of achieving extraordinary physical feats.
“Just because you’re injured doesn’t mean you can’t be active and competitive,” he said. “The Warrior Games are an opportunity for me to specifically showcase what a person with multiple traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can accomplish. You can still push the envelope, but you just have to learn how to do it differently.”
Between 2003 and 2008, Ranker deployed to the Middle East three times and on each tour he suffered a TBI, necessitating his early return to the United States. The accumulated effects of these injuries caused permanent damage to Ranker’s memory, balance, and information processing abilities, resulting in both physical and cognitive challenges for him.
“Physically, I have a hard time walking in a straight line, and I can’t run in a straight line,” he said. “Cognitively, I’m like a computer with an old processor – at times, I just can’t make sense of a lot of information at once.”
Ranker now serves in a leadership role with the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Campbell, Ky., where he continues to undergo intensive rehabilitation and therapy at a specialty TBI clinic. Throughout his military career that spans nearly two decades, Ranker has received both the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart as a result of his service overseas.
Although his sights are set on the Warrior Games for now, he hopes the competition next month will prepare him for additional athletic challenges later this year.
“I’m focusing on Warrior Games now, but after that, I’m going to start training for a marathon. Hopefully I’ll be running a marathon by the end of October, and then I’m going to work toward a triathlon,” Ranker said.
To learn more about the Warrior Games, please visit http://www.usparalympics.org/pages/8330 and http://www.wtc.army.mil/about_us/warriorgames.html. Additionally, to learn more about the Warrior Transition Command and its commitment to adaptive sports, please visit http://wtc.armylive.dodlive.mil/.