By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and TransitionMarch 6, 2018
FORT BLISS, Texas - Jessie White had his confidence shook to the core in 2007 when he was blown up in Iraq while serving as an Infantry Calvary Scout. He would go on to spend almost three and a half years at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland going through rehabilitation and hearing people tell him about everything he couldn't do.
Shoulder, leg and head surgeries would become his norm, followed by physical therapy. During his recovery, White re-discovered a hobby from his childhood that would later become a profession, archery shooting.
"I had bow hunted as a kid, but no kind of competition in archery. I didn't even know there was such a thing."
Someone at the WTB encouraged White to try out for the newly instituted Warrior Games in 2010. White would go on to compete in the first four Warrior Games and has been coaching archery since he stopped competing.
"The WTB changed my life. I'd been in the Army since I was 18 and all of a sudden I was told I can't be in the Army anymore. Archery ultimately saved my life. It gave me that next mission of what to do," White said. "If you would have asked me 15 years ago [if I'd be coaching archery] I would have said, 'ain't no way'."
Much like other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, White struggled with what his future held, but when he went to his first Warrior Games it all clicked. Now, in his fifth year coaching archery, White helps the Army and the other services with their trials and at Warrior Games. He has also been the archery coach for the US Team at the Invictus Games.
This decorated athlete, now coach, knows what it means to feel defeated and have to find the desire within to want to persevere. White found his thanks to archery.
He considers his time at the Warrior Transition Battalion to be a blessing and credits it with helping him recover and preparing him to face the civilian world.
"Not only did archery get me through those tough times, but now I teach it to other people, regardless of disability, I can have them shoot a bow," White said. In fact, he taught Sgt. 1st Class Heather Moran, who competed at the 2017 DoD Warrior Games and is back at Army Trials this year, how to shoot with her mouth as her injuries will not allow her to draw the bow back.
Transitioning from athlete to coach makes the victory at the end even sweeter for White. He sees the adaptive sport he was taught as a potential path to every Soldier's future, far beyond any game.
"Adaptive sports becomes a lifestyle to them. It's not only going to give them a sport, but when they go to do something and they think they can't, they are going to stop and think, 'I thought I couldn't shoot a bow, but now I'm shooting a bow.' Hopefully, that will help them focus on the next task instead of thinking they can't do it," said White.