By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and TransitionOctober 23, 2018
Sgt. Roosevelt Anderson, Jr: Ace and grace on and off the court
By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition
ARLINGTON, Va. - Retired. U.S. Army Sgt. Roosevelt Anderson, Jr's moniker says it all - Justhavefaith.
The Illinois native who dreamed of becoming a pilot would lean on his faith in November of 2012 after a motorcycle accident damaged his spinal cord.
"I've always tried to look at life in a positive manner. Every day I wake up is a blessing," Anderson said.
Ever the optimist, Anderson found a silver lining in what most people would call a cloud.
"Before my injury, I was accepted into the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and I wanted to recover in an effort to get back to work. My focus was recovery. Sports kept my mind and body active and preoccupied from the negative feelings. After a few months, I knew my career was over and I was thankful to have survived. I always planned to do my best with my life," he said.
After attending a military sports camp hosted by the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago, where he recovered, wheelchair tennis became Anderson's sport of choice. He says it was love at first sight.
"The camp exposes you to about 20 different adaptive sports with Paralympic coaches. Wheelchair tennis has been growing for the past 15 years and is now recognized by the military adaptive sports programs," Anderson said.
During the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, The former Electrical Avionics Systems Repairer, an avid athlete, showcased his talents in wheelchair basketball, track and wheelchair tennis. He won a gold and a silver medal in the 100 meter and 200 meters respectively and advanced to the semifinals in wheelchair tennis. During the 2017 Games in Toronto, he competed in wheelchair tennis and won a gold medal in wheelchair basketball.
"These experiences have taught me to try new things daily. You never know what you are good at! You just might be good at it all! Your gifts and talents will make room for you. I'm thankful for every breath I've been given," he explained.
Invictus teammate and tennis Coach Dan Oosterhaus says adaptive reconditioning sports such as tennis, is a win-win situation for those participating.
This is the hardest-working, most inspirational group of men and women I've ever seen. I thought perhaps that everyone there would be depressed due to their injuries, and that it might not be a motivating experience. I couldn't have been more wrong," said Oosterhaus. "These folks never complain about their injuries, instead they joke about it! They always have a smile on their face and give 100 percent because most of them have faced death, and are excited to be alive. Competing again is a gift and they love working hard to get better. It is life-changing to witness," Oosterhaus said.
Roosevelt says his greatest reward isn't found in a medal, but a daily lesson he wants fellow Soldiers to learn and practice. A lesson he recently shared with tennis coach, while participating in an adaptive reconditioning wheelchair tennis clinic at Fort Carson, Colorado.
"You can do ANYTHING! Don't let an injury categorize you into what you can or can't do! Most of all find a reason to smile, DAILY! Philippians 4:13 says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Without passion you can't find purpose! Do you, because God made you special that way."