Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' on the Army Ten Miler!
By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and TransitionOctober 5, 2017
ARLINGTON Va. - Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine of Fort Belvoir Warrior Transition Battalion has seen his share of combat, and injuries. The 29 year old Infantryman from South Carolina has a motto when it comes to his story: "Don't remember me, remember there is always a way."And where there's a will there's a way.Alewine competed in regional trials at Fort Benning last fall for the chance to go on to Army Trials, where he was recognized as "Outstanding" in all seven events he competed in; track, field, air rifle, air pistol, archery, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and swimming. Despite the impressive performance, Alewine did not make it to the Department of Defense Warrior Games. He had to have reconstructive shoulder surgery to repair injuries sustained during his last deployment to Afghanistan.Alewine has recovered from his surgery and will now run in the Army Ten Miler on October 8th in Washington D.C., sort of.Shoulder and leg injuries along with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disease have made things challenging at times for Alewine, but he continues to push forward. Currently assigned to the WTB at Fort Belvoir, Alewine is learning to adapt to his new normal which has led him to find encouragement and inspiration from others. One of those people is Fort Belvoir's site coordinator, Steve Smutak who has been in a wheelchair since a childhood accident. Smutak has helped Alewine learn to use a racing wheelchair and next week they will "roll" their way through Washington, D.C. as they complete the Army Ten Miler."I told Steve I wanted to race in a wheelchair with him. I've been training since August with wheelchair basketball and track racing in the chair, building my arm strength and it's really hard," Alewine said. "I asked him if I could do this with him because I believe there is always a way."Smutak and the WTB are heroes to Alewine and the help they have given him goes beyond sporting events. He credits them with "getting him off the couch" after his injuries. "A lot of folks get a bad attitude. I don't look at it like that," Alewine said. "I realize now there is always somebody like you and you shouldn't give up on yourself. The best part is that there is always help and you shouldn't be afraid to ask for it."Alewine now finds himself volunteering with organizations like On the Edge and One Way or Another helping specifically with kids who have disabilities and Veterans with traumatic experiences. All of this activity keeps him thinking about his future as he is nearing retirement in a few months from the Army."The WTB is the gateway to your future in my opinion. I thought I was done. I was an athlete in high school and my world changed after my injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. My world is different now."After spending the next year at a technical college, Alewine plans to transfer to Clemson University in his home state of South Carolina to pursue his goal of becoming an occupational therapist. Alewine's road to becoming an OT is part of his own reconditioning in a big way. He believes his own injuries and recovery will provide him the unique perspective to understand what his patients are going through."It helps when you can relate to someone's struggles, I know I had them." Despite those struggles, Alewine wouldn't change a thing. "It's a small price to pay to serve my country. I was in charge of ten Soldiers and I brought them all home to their families. That is priceless."As Alewine begins the road to becoming an OT, he has a ten mile detour through Washington D.C. While he admits he could have ran the Army Ten Miler wearing an Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis or IDEO brace, albeit slowly, Alewine is looking forward to completing it in a racing wheelchair with his friend by his side. It's not about who has the best time, rest assured he will finish the race, but for Alewine it's more about time well spent rolling toward his future.
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