By Annette Gomes, Warrior Care and TransitionNovember 16, 2016
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --Resembling a chariot from the first century, and made of aluminum and steel, more than 30, 35-pound rugby wheel chairs charged and collided around the West Fitness Center at Joint Base Andrews during the second annual Warrior Care Month Rugby Exhibition Nov. 14. The exhibition pits teams of active duty and veteran wounded, ill and, injured service members from the Army, Marines, Air Force, and Special Operations Command against each other in friendly competition.
Known as quad rugby in the United States, the team sport was developed for athletes with disabilities, mostly spinal cord injuries and multiple amputations. It is played in more than 25 countries around the world and the summer Paralympics Retired Sgt. 1st Class David Iuli made his wheelchair rugby debut during the Army vs Air Force matchup.
"This has to be one of the most inspiring sports I have ever been involved in," he said.
"I played All Army Rugby in the past, but this took it to another level. These guys just blew me away, especially these young guys," Iuli laughed.
During his 26 year career, Iuli sustained multiple injuries and underwent several surgeries.
His love for adaptive sports began as he recovered at the Warrior Transition Unit, Joint Base Lewis McChord.
"Adaptive sports has been eye opening for me. Some of the activities have given me an avenue to release stress and emotions and cope with depression issues. The staff was able to pinpoint these issues and help me cope as a Soldier."
Consisting of two teams of six, athletes played two 15-minute quarters and scored by crossing a goal line at the end of the court with the ball, but for Iuli scoring on the court was not his intended goal.
"At the end of the day, you know you can get up out of that chair whereas some of my fellow soldiers can't and it really puts things in perspective," he explained. "Being in that chair makes you feel as if you can do anything and your competitive spirit just flows."
Iuli has a message for his fellow Soldiers coping with life's setbacks.
"There are wounds and invisible wounds. You may have limitations, but your spirit doesn't. You can do this and anything [else] you put your mind to. You are alive and blessed."