EL PASO, Texas (June 1, 2015) -- A hush fell over the crowd as the female Soldier took aim, locked onto her target and shot. Cheers went up as she took the gold in her category and second overall, cementing her spot on the Army team for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, June 19-28.
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.
Sgt. Jodie Lemons earned a gold medal in rifle prone in the classified category and a silver medal in rifle prone in the open category during the Army Trials on Fort Bliss, Texas, March 29 - April 2. She also earned a bronze medal in women's recurve during the Army Trials for archery.
Lemons said events like the Army Trials and the Warrior Games are important because they help wounded warriors feel like there is life after injury. On March 19, 2011, she was injured during training on Fort Sill, Oklahoma. She had landed a jump wrong and had dislocated her knee laterally. She underwent four surgeries and was told she may need a total knee replacement or an above-the-knee amputation to return to duty.
"When I was told I was non-retainable, non-deployable, I hit a wall," Lemons said. "Multiple failed surgeries left me questioning my future career-wise and physical capabilities. But my injury has strengthened me spiritually by making my faith stronger than my fears and by trusting that there is a bigger and better plan out there, I have been able to get involved in these events and challenge myself again."
Lemons encourages others to get involved in adaptive sports to overcome their injuries.
"Programs like these are important to a Soldier's overall mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being - to be a part of a team again and be able to surround yourself with such beautiful souls is second to none," she said. "The camaraderie and brotherhood is unimaginable. It brings you back. It shows that there is life after injury. It reinstalls a sense of pride.
"I strongly encourage veterans to get involved." Lemons said of adaptive sports. "No one is here for themselves. We are all Family and here to support each other to the end."
Lemons' teammates agree that the camaraderie is second to none and that she is a big part of that.
"During my first trials, I met a lot of great people, but she was without a doubt a highly-motivated teammate," said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Hawkins, who competed in air rifle, track and field, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.
"Whenever we were in the same sporting area or traveling to and from sport events, she was cheering on other teammates," Hawkins said. "I see in her many examples of the Soldier's Creed. I am really honored to have been part of the Army Trials with her and to share some of the same goals."