By Sgt. 1st Class Luisito BrooksNovember 14, 2018
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - "This is for my friend ... he would have wanted me to compete and do my best," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Samuel Daniels, as he rolled a large bag of ice over his leg.
Daniels, a New Jersey native assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, competed in the 2018 Pacific Regional Trials track and field finals hosted by the Tripler Army Medical Center's Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) with more than 100 participants, Nov. 12, here.
He wasn't planning on competing this year, but it was the advice from one of his favorite coaches that persuaded Daniels to give it a shot.
"I came to be a mentor, but I am thankful that my coach, Adriane Wilson, talked me into competing," said Daniels. "She knows what I am capable of in the track and field events."
The track events comprised of the standing and wheelchair categories at the distances of 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meters. There are also 4x100-meter relays. The field events included seated shot put, standing shot put, seated discus and standing discus.
In just his second year competing in the Trials, Daniels has experienced many highs and lows along the way.
"I was so amazed that I was able to win a gold medal in the shot put event last year with the help and encouragement of a friend, Sgt. Derek Anderson," said Daniels. "This year, right before Veterans Day, my friend died, so I am doing this competition for him and his family because he is not here."
Daniels said it was always Anderson's responsibility to ensure that Daniels was trained and ready to do his best during the Trials.
"We both trained for and loved all the events, but track and field were our bread and butter," said Daniels. "There is nothing like the feeling you get when you throw that disc through the air and it flies to where I wanted it to."
"I would get so pumped up before the events, but Anderson would keep me focused on what I needed to do," said Daniels. "He was like a coach."
Daniels added somberly they were great teammates but even better friends.
"It was truly an honor to have served with him because I would not be the person, athlete or Soldier I am today without his leadership," said Daniels.
The entire track and field event was over within a few hours, but it was apparent the impact Anderson made on Daniels.
During each of the events, Daniels was cheering for his fellow comrades to stay focused and to push hard.
"When I would encourage the other competitors, I would remember my friend because that is what he would do," he said. "I know (Anderson) would be proud of me today."
After overcoming significant physical and mental injuries, wounded warrior athletes prove that life can continue after becoming wounded, ill and injured.
When Daniels got hurt, he went through a dark area in his life, but it was his family, coaches, and friends who encouraged him during these troubling times.
"It can get hard at times for Soldiers who get hurt to stay positive and still fight," said Daniels. "These are the times when I rely on all the support that's around."
These Trials allow service members and veterans to build supportive social networks, develop relationships with other athletes with similar disabilities, giving them a sense of community and acceptance on their path to recovery.
At the track and field medal ceremony, Daniels earned a gold medal in the standing discus and a silver medal in the shot put events. He is now setting his sights on the U.S. Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas in spring 2019, which is the pre-qualifying event for the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida.