Soldier says hits in rugby and life won’t stop her

By MaryTherese GriffinFebruary 8, 2024

Soldier says hits in rugby and life won’t stop her
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Brooke Jader and her husband. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldier says hits in rugby and life won’t stop her
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo courtesy Brooke Jader)

Spc. Brooke Jader is recognized as the motivator of the week! (Photo Credit: Courtesy)
Soldier says hits in rugby and life won’t stop her
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Brooke Jader sets up the hit in wheelchair rugby. (Photo Credit: MaryTherese Griffin) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldier says hits in rugby and life won’t stop her
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Brooke Jader "meets the hit" during wheelchair rugby camp at Ft. Belvoir. (Photo Credit: MaryTherese Griffin) VIEW ORIGINAL

FT BELVOIR Va.- A few weeks ago, Soldiers from across the country at Soldier Recovery Units (SRUs) came together to learn about wheelchair rugby. It’s one of the most physical sports you will ever play or watch. At the Ft Belvoir camp, Spc. Brooke Jader of our Ft Riley SRU showed what physical looks like. She says wheelchair rugby can be for anyone, no matter what size you may be, even the small side like her. “If you are smaller, you have to meet the hit. They taught us how to do it the safest way,” said the 26-year-old from our Fort Riley Soldier Recovery Unit, who uses adaptive sports as a critical component in her recovery.

“We have wheelchair basketball at our SRU, but I’m not used to the heaviness of the wheelchair rugby chair. Even though you are not supposed to hit, you get hit, and I can take a hit from a big guy and keep on going. We learned to do that safely at this camp.” Soldiers also learned to build confidence and communicate as a team, which played out on social media like a tutorial for how it’s done in wheelchair rugby.

“I’ve been sending my husband videos from the ARCP Facebook page. He told me he never understood what it meant that you have ten seconds to pass or dribble, but I get it now. He told me I’m a badass, and I have to say that feels pretty good coming from my Army Veteran Husband, who was in the WTU a long time ago as well.”

Jader was familiar with the Army Recovery Care Program, being a medic and having knowledge from her husband’s visit back in the day. She had never expected to be in an SRU, and a deployment to Cuba in 2022 delivered a hit she had never seen coming. “While there, I noticed my jugular in the right side of my neck was swelling, so the doc there sent me through a bunch of tests, and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. However, the MRI showed I had a small mass in my lung, and that’s how I got to the Ft Riley SRU.”

The mass was thankfully benign. It wasn’t until five months later that Jader received news about her initial concern with her jugular. “I learned I have Bilateral Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. She said her Subclavius muscle was three times the size it was supposed to be, and scar tissue had attached to her vein, causing even more trouble. She’s already had one surgery and knows she likely won’t be returning to duty.”

“They don’t think I can return to duty; I most likely won’t be able to wear body armor, especially once I have my second surgery. I’m still in physical therapy, but I am doing ok!”

Jader is excited about the medical field and will continue her studies after the Army. “I want to get my certification in medical lab science because I already have my bachelor's. I really want to apply for a master's degree in pathology assistant- only 15 of them are in the United States.”

Most immediately, while recovering through adaptive sports, she has her sights set on the Army Trials at Ft. Liberty next month. “I didn’t go to trials last year, but I look forward to going this year. Spc. Chad Krantz and Capt. Veronica Jones returned to Ft. Riley from the games last year, and they really encouraged me. I am competing in everything besides archery this year.”

Through all the hits, Jader knows her time at the Ft. Riley SRU helped carve the path to recovery she is on and will continue to be on after the Army. She is thankful opportunities were available to her. “They kept me busy, and my days filled. I think the activities they provide helped me in my recovery, especially basketball and rugby.”