By Annette P. GomesNovember 26, 2019
Three degrees of separation - One common goal
By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care Transition
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Brandon Freeman and Myles Pringle aren't related by DNA, but if you spend an afternoon with them you'll quickly realize they are brothers bonded together by one common goal: helping wounded, ill and injured Soldiers reach their fullest potential on and off the track.
Freeman, a stand out track and field athlete and former sprint coach at Ashland University in Ohio, is currently the head track coach for Team Army.
"It was divine intervention. I received a message that [Team Army field and powerlifting coach] Adriane Wilson, an Ashland alum and world class star athlete in her own right, was looking for a track coach for Team Army," Freeman said. "My name was thrown into the selection process. Adriane is incredible and anything she's a part of, I want to be involved in. It's been a blessing."
The Ohio native would pay this blessing forward by hiring another Ashland alum, professional track athlete and considered one of the America's fastest sprinters, Myles Pringle as his assistant coach.
"I always dreamed of joining the military. My stepfather was a Marine, my girlfriend is in the Air Force and her brothers serve in the Marines and the Navy, so I'm fulfilling part of that dream by working with these Soldiers athletes and it is incredible," Pringle said.
Wilson is thrilled to have the pair coaching Team Army's track athletes. "I love having them on board. It's just an incredible feeling and I love that we were all athletes at one time at Ashland. That school had a team support like no other. They teach you to believe in the coaches, believe in yourself and now we throw that strength and comradery onto these athletes and help them find their own path and own strength," said Wilson.
Freeman, Pringle and Wilson are currently together at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii coaching at the Pacific Regional Adaptive Regional Camp. Wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from WTBs in Regional Health Command - Pacific and Regional Health Command - Central, have come together to train in 12 adaptive sporting events for a chance to progress to the 2020 Department of Defense Warrior Games.
For Pringle, the opportunity to train these athletes is very personal.
I have a 15-year-old brother that has Downs Syndrome. My whole life I've watched him grow up and helped him adapt to a world that is a little different, but it will broaden his horizons," Pringle said. "He is 15, but his mindset is not that of a person with Downs's syndrome. He has a more active social and sports life than me. He says Brandon is his best friend and calls him regularly.
Growing up, Pringle and his family introduced his brother to several sports including track, soccer, and basketball.
"I completely understand the importance of the adaptive reconditioning program. My brother's world was a little different because he hasn't known anything different, whereas these athletes are learning to adjust to a new normal. Their world has completely changed," Pringle said.
Freeman says his passion lies in athletes receiving that "light bulb moment."
"I approach my warrior athletes all the same even though they may have setbacks, we keep pushing forward. I thought this would be difficult, but I find myself telling them to slow down. Its pedal to the metal for them," Freeman said. "They're so eager and ready to prove themselves and show their talents. I always ask them to write down two positive things they've accomplished each session. I always try to stay positive and so do they. The moment it clicks and they get it is indescribable. I recall Spc. Austin Harwick and how far he's come after being diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome; an onset muscle weakness that can damage the nervous system. His progress has been remarkable"
Freeman and Pringle both agree, it's not about bringing home gold, but medaling in life.
"Brandon always says it best, 'You celebrate the little victories in life. You are here and you make the best of the life you've been given.' That's success in itself," Pringle said.
"As an athlete you get hurt, you have a pulled muscle or hamstring you know you will get better. I can't even fathom what some of these athletes have gone through," Freeman said. "The basic things we take for granted, such as getting dressed or putting on your shoes, they are fighting to get back to a new normal. I think success is truly how you live your life and appreciating every day and living it like it's your last."