Sgt. Fidel Sanchez is a mechanic in the Army. He works on wheels. “Anything with wheels, trucks, trailers, I work on it all,” said the 30-year-old active-duty Soldier at Fort Hood. His plan in the Army as a mechanic had a wrench thrown in it, so to speak, when he severely injured his hand almost two years ago. Two surgeries later he knew he needed specialized care.
“My medical provider recommended the Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) at Fort Hood and talked to my commander. They both agreed it was necessary. As a mechanic, I need both my hands and there was no way I was going to be able to do my job after the surgery, so I was allowed to continue my therapies at the SRU,” said Sanchez.
Part of his therapy at the Fort Hood SRU included bowling. Yes, bowling. The sheer skill of the game is enough to make you feel inadequate when you don’t have any physical or mental setbacks. Sanchez discovered it’s not only a confidence builder for him with the variety of adaptations to the sport, but also the best team building exercise as well.
“There was a Soldier who is technically blind, and we instructed him and coached him, so he threw. And wouldn’t you know it, he gets a strike, and we are like are you sure you’re really blind?” Sanchez says with a laugh. Camaraderie is the big win according to Natalie Sanderson, the Adaptive Reconditioning Program Specialist at the Fort Hood SRU.
“Staff Sgt. William Stroe-Patterson is our visually impaired bowler and Sanchez actually helps guide him throughout the game. It's really great to see them both teamed up!”
The wheel mechanic with his blind teammate and usually about 19 other wounded ill or injured Soldiers find the Monday night bowling sessions more of a mission building opportunity than a let’s go occupy ourselves event. They take in every opportunity to learn how to adapt and grow.
“They are looking at each other and their injuries learning from each other, and they share how they adapt. It’s very cool to see their progress and triumphs. Whether it’s a strike or not they encourage each other and motivate each other and that’s so great to witness. This latest group has been a great group to watch,” said Sanderson.
Soldiers on scooters, using two hands, using adaptive equipment and more, make the sport even more interesting to watch. Sgt. Sanchez says his road to recovery definitely included bowling as he discovered different ways to use his hands. He also says the program overall was spot on for him because of the whole Soldier treatment he received.
“There are so many things for you to do and it can get very easy for a Soldier to get depressed when he is injured or ill. The SRU has events to help take your mind off what you can’t do and focus on what you can do.”
As he starts his return to duty status, Sanchez is grateful for the opportunity to just heal and advises future Soldiers in need to have faith in the program.
“Trust the program because it works. There’s a lot of people there who want to help, from occupational to physical therapists to your nurse case manager, they are there to help you the whole time. Trust the leadership and the program they are there for us.”