Warrior Games gives you a chance to showcase your abilities.

By MaryTherese GriffinMay 23, 2024

Warrior Games gives you a chance to showcase your abilities.
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo courtesy Bianca Hayden)

“I threw the first pitch for the Mariners game- A surreal moment. I thought I would be so nervous, but it happened so fast. My whole family came down from Canada to watch, along with folks from my SRU. I grew up a baseball fan, so it was amazing.” (Photo Credit: Courtesy)
Warrior Games gives you a chance to showcase your abilities.
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Sgt. Bianca Hayden with a superb one-armed discus throw at the 2024 Army Trials. (Photo Credit: Courtesy)
Warrior Games gives you a chance to showcase your abilities.
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. Bianca Hayden swims with one arm at the 2024 Army Trials at Fort Liberty N.C. in March 2024. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
Warrior Games gives you a chance to showcase your abilities.
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Sgt. Biance Hayden practices archery in preparation for the 2024 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Orlando June 21-30. When she’s not wearing the uniform, Hayden is a graphic designer in her own business and is going to school to become a personal trainer. (Photo Credit: Courtesy)

FALLS CHURCH, Va.- Sgt. Bianca Hayden grew up in Canada, played Lacrosse as a kid, and was full-on into triathlons until she joined the Army. “For the past six years, I've been a full-time guardsman. I've been on a few deployments, from Afghanistan to Germany to Poland, and now I am in the Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU).

The very active Hayden, a Cavalry Scout, was on deployment to Poland in 2022 when she injured her shoulder. “During PT on June 17th, I heard a pop and thought I maybe dislocated my left shoulder. By the time I could go to sick call, they thought it was just a strain. I literally couldn't move my arm.” She eventually had an MRI in Sept, and it was found to be a fractured humerus.

“There was nothing I could do there since it was time to come home. I demobilized to Ft Bliss and awaited 40 days transfer to the Joint Base Lewis McChord Soldier Recovery Unit.” After further testing there, they noticed a complete labral tear and a bicep that was ripped in half.

“In my six years in the Army, my job has been physically demanding, constantly carrying heavy things and moving stuff, which has caused deterioration. I am stubborn—I was the only female in my job, so I held myself to a high standard. When they said it was just a strain, and I should be okay, I continued working until I could not.”

The little things started showing up when Hayden realized this was a severe situation. “I couldn’t wear a backpack, wash my hair, or put it up. I had to walk through the hallways to see who had daughters who could braid my hair.”

She eventually made it to the Joint Base Lewis McChord Soldier Recovery Unit, where she admits that the first year was challenging. “I didn’t know exactly what an SRU was until I needed it. I didn’t know to what extent they could help,” said Hayden, who ended up having two surgeries at the nearby Bremerton Naval base to fix her shoulder, one of which included adding fourteen anchors to keep it in place.

Beyond the surgeries, the JBLM SRU was ready to get her on the road to recovery. Her goal is to return to duty.

“Being able to go somewhere and recover and not worry about getting back into work took so much weight off my shoulders,” said Hayden.

Then, the light bulb went off about adaptive sports that would help this naturally competitive soldier get back into the game. She competed at Ft Liberty in March and made Team Army. “I am a very competitive person overall. I am excited to get back into that competitive mindset. Warrior Games is a chance to showcase your abilities. Once you're injured, it can make you feel like you will never be able to compete.”

Hayden learned about adaptive sports at JBLM’s SRU. “All the events I compete in at Warrior Games will be single-armed. I’ve had to learn to adapt. Swimming, rowing, throwing shot put and discus, and archery, which I am shooting with my mouth.”

Never thinking she would be competing on a national level again, Hayden is soaking it all in while training hard for Orlando. “I am beyond thrilled to be on Team Army! It’s almost surreal.”

She knows she couldn’t have gotten there without the Army Recovery Care Program. “Having a team surrounding you that cares so much, the SRU teams are huge, from physical therapists to rec therapists, your provider, squad leaders, your nurse case managers, has been great. It's all right here,” said Hayden, who is clear the SRU is not just about sports.

“The SRU has some amazing resources. You have to get out of your room and explore. Even beyond sports, the SRU can help you with apprenticeships and jobs and get you into schools. For every new person that comes into the SRU, I tell them that if they want something, somebody here can get it for them. They have massive resources.”

Hayden can claim two traits: embracing change and persevering. She encourages others facing a stay at the SRU to take a chance, participate, and not delay on their road to recovery. “Use the resources available. The first year I was here, I did everything alone; I didn’t get involved. I thought it was silly. One day, I stumbled across an air rifle practice that opened up this adaptive sports world that changed my life.”