By Marcy SanchezMarch 7, 2018
FORT BLISS, Texas - Sixteen wounded, ill or injured service members vied for gold in an elimination-style competition during the 2018 Army Trials Archery Competition at Fort Bliss, Texas, March 5. The competition is one of 10 events being held from March 2-9 in an effort for individuals to earn a spot on Team Army to compete at the Department of Defense Warrior Games at Colorado Springs, Colorado this summer.
The competition pitted competitors against each other in one of two categories, individual recurve or individual compound. Archers shoot three rounds, called ends, of three arrows each in a shot at accumulating more points than their competitor.
"It opened up a whole new world for me," said Army veteran Mimi Xaysana. "Being able to be around similar type of people and compete, it helps a lot. Coming out of recovery or coming out of the army it's just finding another purpose; whether it is a hobby or a passion."
A diagnosis of osteosarcoma, bone cancer in the knee, led to an above-the-knee amputation for Xaysana, a retired specialist who worked as a medical laboratory technician in the Army.
"I was in a wheelchair at the time (when she began shooting archery)," said Xaysana, a native of Falls Church, Virginia. "I fell in love with it, it was so much fun."
Xaysana, who competed in the first round of the individual recurve tournament, credits adaptive sports and physical therapy with helping her recover and discovering new opportunities at the Fort Sam Houston Warrior Transition Battalion.
This year's competition, held at Ronald D. Milam Physical Fitness Center at Fort Bliss, lined competitors 18 meters away from the target with an excited crowd who cheered on all athletes drawing recurve and compound bows while aiming in on targets.
"(Archery) is something to focus on so you're not necessarily focusing on all the negatives," said retired Capt. Alex Wilson, a native of Saugerties, New York. "It helps me concentrate and helps me focus. Every time you have an injury, sometimes things bother you and you can't really let it. Trying to get into that mental place is where you need to be and archery helps me zone in and do that."
In 2007 while serving as a scout platoon leader at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wilson was injured due to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that detonated as the Humvee he was riding in drove over it, leading to multiple injuries including amputation of his left leg.
After recovering at the Fort Sam Houston WTB, Wilson was medically retired and began work with a security firm as a government contractor. While working security at the Invictus Games, he was inspired to compete and represent Team Army at this year's Army Trials, 10 years after retiring. Wilson, who ended the individual compound competition in fourth place, credits the WTB with teaching him to set goals to distract him from focusing on physical disabilities.
The competition ended with Sgt. Brent Sixkiller placing first in the individual compound category and Pfc. Lauren Jahn winning gold in the individual recurve category.