By Maria Gallegos, Brooke Army Medical CenterApril 26, 2013
SAN ANTONIO (April 26, 2013) -- When service members deploy, their mentality is to stay focused with determination and courage to succeed in their given mission. However, when they are injured in combat -- to stay focused is not about the mission, it's about getting back confidence that is sometimes lost.
Sgt. Ryan McIntosh was an avid athlete who was heavily involved with sports throughout high school. He competed in track and played football -- even semi-professional football.
After high school, McIntosh joined the Army in 2010, as an infantryman, and deployed to Afghanistan shortly after he graduated from basic training in Colorado in April 2010.
Everything was going well as planned until one day, unexpectedly, his life changed forever.
Just two months into deployment, he was out on a routine orchard-clearing foot patrol when he stepped on a pressure plate land mine -- ultimately resulting in amputation to his right leg below the knee.
He has been treated at Brooke Army Medical Center since the incident and rehabilitating at the Center for the Intrepid.
At first, McIntosh was not sure about jumping back into sports due to his injuries, but with friends' persistence, he gave sitting volleyball a try. Ever since then, he has been participating in most, if not all adaptive sports for wounded warriors.
"From the beginning I wanted to get back on my feet as quickly as I could," said McIntosh. "I'd always been athlete, -- it was a passion of mine. When I got hurt, I lost track of it -- thinking I'm not able to do what I used to do because I got hurt.
"After two months into my recovery I reluctantly gave sitting volleyball a try," he continued. "I was hooked. That transitioned into finding every sport that I could possible to play, and then I started the wheelchair basketball that led me to running track."
McIntosh continued to get involved with different sports and realizing every time he participated, he felt like he was "the same person, before the injury."
"I felt that I was still competitive. I was still athletic (and) that didn't change because I lost my leg. It just propelled me to work harder to do what I wanted to do," McIntosh said.
That endurance and stigma led him to compete in the 2012 Army Warrior Games. He took home the gold medal in wheelchair basketball, silver medals in two track events, and a bronze medal in swimming.
"I was honored and excited to be given the opportunity to compete among the top athletes across the country," said McIntosh.
Even though he was considered unfit for duty after his medical evaluation board, he remains active duty on the Continuation on Active Duty, or COAD, a program that provides an opportunity for wounded warriors to continue to serve in the Army on active duty or on active reserve.
"I know I can't do the job I used to do, but I can still help the Army," he said.
McIntosh is now the Adaptive Sports noncommissioned officer in charge with BAMC Warrior Transition Battalion.
In this position, he helps Soldiers get back to sports and stay physically fit at all levels -- from competition training to reconditioning Soldiers to learning new ways of playing sports with their children.
"I have the passion for what I do because I see what it did for me. I recovered because when I was hurt I was in a state that I thought I couldn't do anything, but once I got into sports, it helped me mentally, physically and emotionally to just get back into the lifestyle before I got hurt," said McIntosh. "I'm helping others to have an open mind and not let their injuries get in the way to get back to normal."
McIntosh is scheduled to compete in the 2013 Warrior Games at Colorado Springs, Colo., May 11-16. He will fight for the win in swimming, track, field, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.
"I am honored to be selected again. This year though, I am more mentally prepared. I have upped my training regimen just because I don't want to get behind other services, and I have trained harder to get ahead from last year," he said.
Studies show disabled veterans who participate in adaptive sports have less stress, reduced dependency on pain and depression medication, and higher achievement in education and employment.