By CourtesyApril 11, 2019
From Polar Bear to Mountain Warrior- this is one cool Soldier
By MaryTherese Griffin, Army Warrior Care and Transition
ARLINGTON, Va. - How does a kid from Bradenton, Florida end up on a sled hockey team in upstate New York? It's a fair and accurate answer to say quite by accident. U.S. Army Spc. Cameron Danforth, a combat medic in the 31st Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, New York, also known as the Polar Bears, had an accident, injuring his hips, during a training exercise last summer. Danforth ended up at Fort Drum's Warrior Transition Unit after learning it would be a long recovery following hip surgery. Doctor appointments, education and physical therapy, that included adaptive sports, became his world.
"The WTU has helped me in many ways, but the most important way it has helped was when they set up a time for the company to try sled hockey," said Danforth. March 4, 2019 is the day he will never forget. He had never been on a hockey sled on the ice before, but thought he'd give it a try.
"I have to use a cane to walk around and it is extremely difficult to move without being in pain. I am unable to skate around on the sled because of the pain," Danforth said. "However, I am able to be a goalie because I do not have to move around a lot. Sled hockey has helped me the most with my mental health." Sled hockey has also helped him to feel like he can still accomplish great things in his new normal.
"That day changed my life because I am now involved in an entire community that spans across the world. It is really cool to see how small the world seems when people have connections all over just because of how I am involved in sled hockey." Danforth is involved in a big way. After a few practices he was selected to become a member of a sled hockey team.
"The team I am on now is called the Mountain Warriors. The people who initially put on the event for us to try out said if you want to keep playing and trying out the sport that they have practice every Saturday," Danforth said. "I went to a practice and I just kept going. After the second practice, there was a tournament the next weekend and they said I was playing. From that moment, I was welcomed on the team," Danforth said.
The new goalie's recreational therapist, Annalise Doyle, recognizes the win for Danforth on and off the ice. "It's very impressive that after trying it out for one day he jumped right in and began taking any opportunity he can to play," Doyle said of Danforth. "[Danforth] is an example of what can happen when you utilize the resources available at the WTU. He found something that he enjoys, adds to his quality of life, and he can continue to do after leaving the WTU."
The former triathlete believes being part of a team in any aspect of life is important and this new found sport is his way to contribute and belong. Getting to this sweet spot now he attributes to embracing the mission of the WTU and working with that team.
"[You shouldn't] take for granted the opportunities you have in being able to get connected in adaptive sports groups, your personal health, and advancing yourself in college," Danforth said. "Medical might be hard because it is hard sometimes to get things accomplished, but if you keep at it, people will notice and your medical health could get better either by managing your pain or by helping a person out on the mental side of things."