By Leanne Thomas, Tripler Army Medical Center Public AffairsMay 31, 2018
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Less than a year ago, U.S. Army Sgt. Samuel Daniels, a wounded warrior athlete stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, was introduced to the Army Warrior Care and Transition's adaptive sports program. Now he is competing in the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition developed to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of seriously injured, wounded, and ill service members and veterans.
The 2018 DOD Warrior Games will be held June 1 - 9 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado with approximately 300 competitors representing teams from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, Australian Defence Force, United Kingdom Armed Forces, and the Canadian Defence Force. The branches of service will compete against each other in archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, shooting, swimming, wheelchair basketball, track and field, and new this year, powerlifting and indoor rowing.
Hand-selected to represent Team Army, Daniels' road to Colorado Springs started in December 2016 when he was assigned to Tripler Army Medical Center's Warrior Transition Battalion after injuring his back and suffering from a herniated disc.
"While I was there, it was mostly recovery, and recovery is hard," Daniels said. "I was starting to give up a little bit, and I was like, 'you know what, just let me go home.' I was done, I didn't want to try anymore."
Then in 2017, the Tripler WTB hosted the first Pacific Regional Trials, giving Daniels the opportunity to train and compete in adaptive sports, and also the motivation and confidence to drive on.
"This gave me something else to fight for, and I thought, 'I got this. I still got push; I still got fight. This dog still got fight in him,'" said Daniels. "And me pushing myself to do this, it mentally got me into the mind frame of, 'I got this.'"
At Pacific Regional Trials, Daniels won two gold medals in the discus and shot put field events. He then went on to compete at the 2018 Army Trials in El Paso, Texas, earlier this year. There he placed first and brought home two gold medals once again.
After Army Trials, Daniels stayed connected with the other athletes through a Facebook group to continue to train and support each other as wounded warrior athletes.
"We didn't know which one of us were going to get picked (to represent Team Army for the Warrior Games) so we created the group before we got picked," said Daniels. "Once we found out the list, we posted it on there and let everyone know who made it. We all continued staying connected."
Team Army then started communicating and training together virtually by posting training videos in the Facebook group, raising the training standards higher and higher. "We kept putting a 'stepping stone' out for everybody until we got down here," said Daniels.
When Daniels was asked if Team Army is going to be a good team this year, he said, "Oh yes! First, second, third, and fourth place are all going to Army."
However, Daniels mentioned his primary focus at Warrior Games is not to bring home medals, although Daniels and the rest of Team Army are very confident that this will happen.
Daniels explained, "When people ask me about this they say, 'so it's about the medals?' And I say no, medals are a plus, but we're not competing for medals. We're competing because it's something that we are passionate about doing. We are becoming athletes again; we're competitive. It's to show people what we have, and show ourselves what we have now, that we once thought we didn't have."
Following the Warrior Games, Daniels will return to duty, assigned to the 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, located at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
"I'm still injured, but they (Tripler WTB) taught me how to deal with it, so I don't overdo it. And I'm competitive, so I overdo it sometimes."
Never forgetting where he came from, Daniels wears his 'Aloha' t-shirt during Warrior Games training prior to the competitions because, he says, "I'm still representing the Tripler WTB at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii because they're the reason why I'm here, they're the reason I got here."