ARLINGTON, Va. – For Staff Sgt. Mike Murphy of the Fort Carson Soldier Recovery Unit in Colorado, the journey from losing his vision in late 2018 to participating in the Defense Department’s Warrior Games this September can only be described with one word: surreal.
It’s been nearly three years since Murphy was on deployment in Greece near the border with Turkey. He was riding in the back of a vehicle on an airfield when he hit his head in the backseat, causing a minor concussion that caused his vision to regress over time. Eventually, he ended up at Fort Carson, "still in denial" and with depression taking over, Murphy said.
Today, he's just one of 45 athletes getting ready to head to Orlando, Florida, later this summer to represent Team Army in the Warrior Games.
"The impact of Warrior Games definitely was something that got me into a new chapter," Murphy said. "I know I'm pretty competitive and athletic, but to actually get that email saying that you made the team – it's an all-encompassing and surreal feeling."
He'll be bringing his family to cheer him on as he competes in five events: swimming, cycling, track, field and archery.
Murphy was getting ready to participate in Army Trials at Fort Bliss in Texas last year when the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the event.
"I was pretty bummed," he said. "Personally, I was pretty motivated to get back into it. It got me out of my rut and back to working out again."
Fortunately, Murphy had a couple of major cycling events to keep him motivated. Last fall, Murphy and cycling companion Marc Cattapan, the adaptive reconditioning support specialist at Fort Carson, took on the Beartooth Challenge. The event featured 68.7 miles of riding on the northeast edge of Yellowstone National Park.
He's looking forward to taking on Warrior Games with his fellow Soldiers – and not just because of the competition.
"The camaraderie is amazing," Murphy said. "I want to meet other veterans who have been through similar or different issues."
But before he gets there, he knows the next couple of months will be about training. He hasn't changed up his routine much from the build-up to Army Trials.
Murphy believes that this summer will set him up for the next phase of his life, and his ultimate goal: to compete in the Paralympic Games.
"I try to keep a mix of training and set up a routine," Murphy said. "I'm also starting to take college full time, but I think I'm going to focus strictly on Warrior Games for now."