By Whitney Delbridge Nichels, Warrior Care and TransitionOctober 5, 2017
TORONTO - When Army veteran Anthony Pone began his military career in 2000, he had no idea where life would take him.
"I didn't really know what I wanted to do at the time," Pone said. "My uncle and grandfather both served. It made me feel good to see them traveling the world, and I thought maybe that would be a good idea for me."
And travel he did. Pone has spent the last four years living in France - a country with a unique culture that he's come to love.
"Most everyone dreams of going to France. It's surreal," Pone said.
But his service isn't what got him there. A devastating car accident was the catalyst that's led him on a one-of-a-kind journey that he never would've expected.
In 2002, Pone was stationed at Fort Lee, Va. One evening, while driving in stormy weather, Pone's car hydroplaned and crashed.
"I was trapped in the car for 3 hours," Pone said, describing the wreck which led to the amputation of his right leg.
A natural born athlete, Pone thought his life would never be the same.
"I immediately thought I would never play sports again," Pone said.
After returning home, the Philadelphia native says he began to put on weight and desperately searched for a way to stay active. That's when he was introduced to the sport that would change his life: wheelchair basketball.
"I was reluctant at first," said Pone. "I had never even heard of the sport. I was a good stand up basketball player and I didn't think it would be as competitive."
But Pone would quickly learn his assumption was wrong.
"I went to practice and instantly fell in love."
He began traveling with a Philadelphia-based team, and before he knew it, scholarship offers were pouring in.
"I chose to go to University of Texas at Arlington. So, I was continuing my education while learning the game at a whole new level," Pone said.
After a stint with the Dallas Mavericks' wheelchair team, Pone then received offers to play overseas - Italy, Germany and, his ultimate choice, France.
Despite his current affiliation, Pone says there was no place he'd rather be than standing with Team U.S. at the 2017 Invictus Games.
"My heart is with my home," Pone said. "That's one of the reasons I wanted to compete here, to stand with my fellow service members."
And that allegiance held fast, even when it was time to go head to head with France on the basketball court.
"I don't know the French athletes in attendance, but it's great to see them here. I'm always rooting for the U.S., but I hope they do well."
With Pone's help, the U.S. wheelchair basketball team defeated France and went on to beat the Netherlands for the gold.
No matter what team he's playing for, Pone says his goal is to represent for those who give their all to the game, despite their limitations.
"I always want to show people we're athletes too," Pone said. "We work just as hard and we deserve to be recognized."