By Shannon Collins, DOD News, Defense Media ActivityMay 12, 2015
FORT MEADE, Md. (April 28, 2015) -- An Apache AH-64 armament/electrical/avionic systems repairman swam his way onto the Army team for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games, set for June 19-28.
Sgt. Blake Johnson, of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, will compete in air rifle, shot put, discus, wheelchair track, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and swimming.
During the Army Trials, Johnson took bronze medals in the men's 50-meter freestyle, 50-meter backstroke and 100-meter freestyle swimming events.
"He improved greatly," said Johnson's swim coach, Glen O'Sullivan. "We pushed him to use all of his body, which he made great strides in his stroke. He listened and was willing to try. Medaling just goes to show that coach was right. I look forward to watching him compete at the 2015 DOD Warrior Games."
Johnson said being at the Army Trials and participating in adaptive sports helps him with his rehabilitation. He was injured in 2012 in a motor vehicle accident in Germany, where he was stationed. He fractured his femur and tibia, shattered his patella, ripped his patella ligament, ripped cartilage and had knee reconstruction.
He had a partial knee replacement in October 2014, and has had five surgeries so far.
Johnson ran track and played football and baseball in high school. He also played basketball recreationally in high school. He said adaptive sports give him that sense of being an athlete back to him.
"Adaptive sports have been a really big morale boost for me," he said. "Just getting back to playing with a team and being able to compete again and have that normal feeling, it's really helped. It's probably been the best morale booster anyone can have, at least for me."
Johnson said his injury has made him more resilient.
"I don't run anymore, and I was a big runner," he said. "I had big plans before I got injured. It happened, and you may have that self-pity in the beginning, but you have to push to recreate yourself to be the person you want to be, to take every obstacle and challenge you have and make it a plus.
"When you do find yourself sitting there and doubting yourself, you need to regroup and maybe not fix it, but find a new path, because the path you had is not there anymore. I was a runner, and now I swim a lot. I enjoy competing. I'm where I want to be."
Johnson has served in the Army for almost five years and said he will continue to serve because it is a family tradition. His father is a command sergeant major stationed on Fort Hood, Texas.
"My dad has served 24 years," he said. "After he did his deployments, I joined the Army because I felt I needed to do my time too - to serve my country."
Johnson said his parents are proud of his participation in adaptive sports.
"They're very proud and supportive," he said. "They text me, 'good luck' when I compete. They're going to try to make it to the Warrior Games to watch me compete."
The Department of Defense Warrior Games will take place on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Throughout the games, wounded, ill and injured Service members and veterans from the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard will compete in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.