Never believe that your disability defines you

By CourtesyMarch 12, 2019

By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and Transition

Fort Bliss Texas- When Retired Army Sgt. Jamie Villarreal was in the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Fort Carson, Colorado, she never dreamed she would be competing for a place on Team Army for the 2019 Warrior Games.

"It's pretty exciting I'm a little bit nervous but I get to meet so many people it's great!"

The small arms/artillery repairer was dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a leg injury that consumed her whole world, leaving her to wonder, what next? She credits the support from Drew Joyner and Marc Cattapan who worked with her in Adaptive Sports for getting on the road to recovery and ultimately here to Army Trials at Fort Bliss Texas.

"Adaptive sports helped with my physical injuries by helping me stay active. My PTSD had me struggling to socialize, suffering inside made me keep to myself but making new friends at the WTU and therapy helped me to overcome. It's what got me here."

Villarreal is competing in wheelchair tennis, wheelchair track, hand cycling, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. She's already captured two Gold medals and two silver medals in her track events.

"I'm very competitive but I root for everyone - I feel like I'm everyone's number one fan!"

She is one of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders when her fellow athletes are competing and does so because she knows how they struggle to compete as well.

"I have to balance the physical and the mental, I think all athletes do - we adapt. It's easy to fall back but you have to keep that positive attitude."

Her drive to make it to Warrior Games and represent the Army makes her reflect on how far she has come since she entered the WTU. She shares that with any Soldier faced with mental or physical struggles.

"The WTU helps you with all the healing from physical to mental that's what they are there for. Never believe that your disability defines you - it doesn't."

Even if competing at an event like Army Trials isn't in the cards for a recovering Soldier, Villarreal hopes they will take the positive road.

"Be happy, enjoy life and enjoy the people around you. Stay Positive."