By Leanne ThomasMarch 14, 2019
FORT BLISS, Texas -- It was a proud moment to present Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Fontenot with one of his first medals during the 2019 Army Trials competition.
Becky Richardson, a recreational therapist from the Fort Campbell Warrior Transition Battalion, was asked at the last minute to help present medals to the winners of the 2019 Army Trials powerlifting competition, Mar. 9, at Stout Physical Fitness Center.
"I just happened to be in the right order at the time," Richardson said. "And it was just very overwhelming, in a good way, to be able to present that to him, knowing everything that he's been through. I know that he's honoring a lot of people that he's lost (by participating in the trials)."
It had been only seven months since Fontenot returned to duty following a knee injury which occurred during an air assault mission. This January the field artilleryman was led back to the Fort Campbell WTB for another round of recovery after reinjuring his knee.
The adaptive reconditioning team could see this was taking an emotional toll on him.
"They saw me come through (the program) before, and I was gung-ho about getting back to my troops, and everything worked out the way I wanted it to," he said.
This time around the WTB it was different for Fontenot.
Richardson said, "When he came back he talked to the adaptive reconditioning team, and he said, 'I need some motivation. I want to try out for the Warrior Games, and I want to work hard.' We could tell he was going through a hard time."
At first, Fontenot was told he couldn't go. Richardson said, "It was hard to tell him ... but then he was able to get on the team at the last minute, and he trained incredibly hard."
With just a few weeks before the 2019 Army Trials, the qualifying event for the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games, Fontenot started training as much as he could for the adaptive sports competition.
"I got with (Richardson) from adaptive reconditioning and worked with her on rowing because I had never rowed before ... she helped me with the technique," Fontenot explained. "She also helped me with powerlifting and wheelchair basketball because having your legs taken out of the equation makes a really big difference in the way you play."
Fontenot may have had to make a few changes in the way he plays sports, but he has done exceptionally well.
"Just because you have an injury doesn't mean that you can't be a leader, or you have to be out of the fight. Find what works for you - and you're not out of the fight. Don't let a profile or an injury define who you are," he explained.
At the first medal ceremony of the 2019 Army Trials, Fontenot was awarded a gold medal in the men's four-minute rowing endurance race, and a silver medal in the men's powerlifting event.
"This has been a special experience getting to see people push themselves outside of their comfort zone and achieve things that they didn't think they could," he said.
Richardson is especially proud of him and amazed at the progress he has made in such a short time.
"You've seen a new fire in him since he's been doing this again, that new purpose. He's taken on a leadership role here - it's just brought him back to life again - and if (adaptive reconditioning) can change one life, then it's totally worth it," Richardson added.