By Robert A. Whetstone, Brooke Army Medical Center Public AffairsDecember 21, 2017
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- If you are looking for a show of strength in south Texas, you don't have to look any further than the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Battalion-East detachment nestled on the Brooke Army Medical Center campus. Inside the small building, Sgt. Ivan Sears works tirelessly behind the scenes, educating service members on the benefits of the programs offered within adaptive reconditioning, and being a stellar example of readiness.
Sears is part of a long line of Marines. In fact, the lineage can be traced to his birthplace of Twentynine Palms, California. "My dad Robert Sears helped me decide (to become a Marine) because he was in the Marine Corps for the majority of my life," he said. "Also, the Marine Corps tradition is part of our family history from my grandpa Sears to my uncle Bill."
Like many young post-9/11 men and women, Sears wanted to serve his country, and do his part. After graduating from East Central High School in San Antonio, Texas, he joined the Marine Corps in 2008. In 2010, while on a patrol in Marjah, Afghanistan, Sears was injured by an improvised explosive device.
"I suffered from bilateral above knee amputations, a broken hip, burns and also wounds to my right arm," he explained. Despite his injuries, he was determined to remain on active duty.
"As a result (of modern combat), many of our wounded, ill, and injured service members have significant traumatic injuries to include multi-limb traumatic amputations," said U.S. Army Col. Travis Richardson, attending physician, Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, and Internal Medicine Consultant to the Surgeon General. "Fortunately improvements and advancements in the military health system and in combat casualty care/medical evacuation processes have resulted in improved survival rates," he explained.
Sears' injuries led him to explore the Marine Corps Warrior Athlete Reconditioning Program (WAR-P). Warrior care encompasses full spectrum support through recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration back to duty or transition into the community. Sears, with the help of the Expanded Permanent Limited Duty Program and WAR-P, not only remains on active duty, but is excelling.
"I went to the Marine Corps Trials in 2013 and wanted to run on running legs but it didn't really work out too well," said Sears. "So, I was asked to give the racing wheelchair a try. The coach said I was a natural at it and I just kept with it." Sears became a member of the 2013 Marine Corps DoD Warrior Games team. He went on to the national championships that year and participated in various other competitions.
To simply say 'other competitions,' is somewhat of an understatement. After attending the Marine Corps Trials and the DoD Warrior Games, Sears competed in Germany at the Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM), the Military World Games in Mungyeong, Korea, Paralympic championships and try-outs, and the 2016 Invictus Games.
Sears was a member and Co-Captain of Team US during the 2017 Invictus Games. "The reason Invictus Games is different from other events is because it's not just about the medals," he explained. "It is more about networking and competing with other athletes, and also challenging yourself past your normal."
His favorite sports to compete in are a toss-up between track and sledge hockey. Sears said during wheelchair racing on the track he generates the power to get up to at 20 mph. "I like sledge hockey because you get the full contact and work as a team," he said.
Richardson said the athletes at the Invictus Games demonstrated a tremendous will to recover and rehabilitate and get back to their new normal. "They have certainly shown us an incredible competitive spirit and what resiliency truly looks like."
His story of resilience within the WAR-P, similar to the Army adaptive reconditioning program, is one that should be shared in not only the BAMC community, but among sister services as well. There are active duty service members and veterans currently in adaptive reconditioning, striving to compete in events similar to those Sears participated in. Sears offers some straight forward advice to those seeking to compete: "Once you keeping practicing and sticking with it, and figuring out what works for you, then you'll be great at it."
Adaptive reconditioning has helped Sears both personally and professionally. "It helps in both areas because personally it makes me feel good about myself and the opportunity to represent the Marine Corps and my country," Sears explained. "Professionally it allows me to meet some of the best people in the world. I am making memories with them and showing even after being wounded, we can still do great things."
Note: November was Warrior Care Month. It is an important Department of Defense-wide annual effort to increase awareness of programs and resources available to wounded, ill and injured service members, as well as their families, caregivers and others who support them, and to inspire dialogue and action to support 21st century warrior care priorities, including those supporting readiness and interagency collaboration. For additional information on Warrior Care Month and warrior care programs and resources, please visit http://warriorcare.dodlive.mil