ARLINGTON, Va. — Sgt. Jose Alfaro is proof that you don't need an extensive sports background to participate in the annual Army Trials — if you've got the fire and competitive spirit to take on a grueling challenge, any wounded, ill and injured Soldier or veteran can do it.
Alfaro, who hails from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center's Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU), participated in archery, rowing, sitting volleyball, and hand-cycling at the 2021 Army Trials, which took place virtually around the country March 1-15. It was his first time competing in the Trials — or any type of competition involving multiple sports for that matter.
"It was all new to me," he said. "I was told about it and I said, 'why not?' I thought it would be something new to experience while in the military."
It was a bold decision for him, as he had less than a month to train. Other than rowing, which he had a couple months of experience doing, everything else was new for him.
As a result, organizers told him to just do his best. "I kind of got thrown into it," Alfaro remarked.
Alfaro describes himself as a competitive person, so when he found out he would be going up against people across the United States and even former Paralympians, he was excited about what might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"I felt it would be a good opportunity to have a sense of purpose," Alfaro said. "My children and people who know me were watching on YouTube, and some were actually online cheering me on. It gave me a lot of motivation."
It was also a chance to develop himself as a person and a Soldier, he added.
"I've never done archery in my life," he said. "So for me, it was the experience, and the mentorship and coaching in each one of these events. That, to me, is going to be a lasting impression — not so much what I scored and what my time was."
It was also a chance to "meet other wounded warriors and hear their stories," he added, noting that he enjoyed the camaraderie and teamwork.
Alfaro, who is from Sterling, Virginia, arrived at the Walter Reed SRU in late 2019 after being injured in Cuba. He endured two knee surgeries and got into a behavioral health program as well.
He expects to spend another year at the SRU. He plans to continue to be active physically and participate in as many activities as he can. After that, he hopes to go into business as an entrepreneur. He has four children, and hopes to continue coaching his oldest daughter's soccer team. He also plans to volunteer his time mentoring teenage boys.
His experience at Army Trials is one he won't soon forget, and he thinks other Soldiers and veterans who are thinking about entering next year's Trials should do so.
"I got into archery and I was like, 'I really like this.' It's very therapeutic,” Alfaro said. "I encourage anyone in the future to give it a shot.”