Three Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion, Irwin Army Community Hospital, participated in the Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas, for two weeks in March.
Although they did not earn a spot on Team Army for the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games hosted by the United States Special Operations Command, they represented Fort Riley well.
Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Maynard, WTB platoon sergeant, said he, Staff Sgt. Jeffery Keith and Staff Sgt. Rodney Gilmore competed in the games and had a busy two weeks.
"The Warrior Games is for active duty, as well as veterans that have been injured," he said. "The games give them a chance to compete, which ultimately helps them with their recovery."
Although Maynard has returned to duty, a spinal fusion led to his being assigned to the WTB and participation in the Warrior Games.
Fort Bliss was the first time he competed in the games. His events were track, field, air rifle and archery, seated volleyball and wheelchair basketball. He earned bronze medals in the 100-, 200-, 800- and the 1,500-meter wheelchair sprints.
He also earned a spot as an alternate for the games.
He didn't just compete for himself, Maynard said.
"I have a daughter who has a rare disease," he said. "I just wanted to go to show her that, you know, you might be injured, or you might have some limitations but that's not going to stop you from going and competing and doing different events. Just life in general -- keep going, you can keep moving forward, even though you have some limitations. It's not going to slow you down."
His daughter, Sienna, has Ollier's Disease, which is a rare bone disease. In her left leg she has tumors above and below the knee.
"She's nine and has a very hard time playing regular nine-year-old sports," he said. "She's getting to that age where she is understanding a little bit more that she's not like everybody else. So, I want to get her into adaptive sports, which is another reason why I went -- to network a little bit and see what kind of adaptive sports are out there."
Besides being an inspiration to his daughter, he hopes to show other Soldiers in transition that just because they have had an injury, it doesn't mean they their career is over.
"I would challenge anybody that has any sort of limitation or injury to attempt to compete in the Army Warrior Games," he said. "It's a great opportunity to showcase your talents and just help you with your recovery and move on with life or your career."
Gilmore echoes Maynard's sentiments and learned first-hand how right he is.
He is interning as a Human Resource specialist as he edges closer to being medically discharged from the Army. His transition is because of a reoccurring tumor that presses against the pituitary glands.
When Gilmore transferred to the WTB he discovered archery and began to enjoy the sport. He was a little familiar with archery, but just from what he saw on the hunting channel on television.
"Then my squad leader and my coordinator saw how good I was shooting and asked if I would like to go to the word trials of Hawaii," he said. "I was like, 'sure I'll go, why not?' And then after that, I got invited to the warrior trials at Fort Bliss, Texas."
He went to Hawaii in November 2018. There, and in Texas, he said he learned a lot from the coaches about competitive archery and track and field.
"I learned a lot about different sports, which was good," he said.
When invited to the games in Texas, he liked the idea of having the experience again where he got to meet new people and see how he stacked up competitively.
When he came home, he brought with him the reinforcement of the concepts of teamwork and consistency; but also, individual responsibility.
"… to take what the coaches taught me and come back here and do it on my own," he said. "Be more accountable for my own training and build a wider networking system with other people, other Soldiers that's in my shoes right now."
He came home with more than just lessons learned. To his surprise, he also came home with a silver medal in the discus throw and a bronze medal in shot put.
"I didn't believe my squad leader at time when he said 'hey, you gotta come to the ceremony,'" he said. "When I got there and they called my name. I was surprised. I was like 'whoa, how did I get this?"
In hindsight, he saw it as an example of what he is capable of once he puts forth effort.
"When I was going through the event the coach was like, 'Hey, I noticed all you guys are not putting in your full effort,'" Gilmore said. "He said 'once you do that, you'll throw a little bit further than you think you will.' So, once I did that I was like 'oh, I did (throw better).' The lesson there is to always put in 100 percent."
The message he wants to get to other Soldiers, especially those in the WTB is the same as Maynard's.
"For any Soldier that ends up in the WTB I say to ask about the events," he said. "Go to your coordinator -- take everything that they give you information wise, use it to your advantage before you transition out of the military, or if you return back to duty."