By Mr. Jerry Harben (Army Medicine)April 15, 2010
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (April 15, 2010) -- A line of Soldiers sends arrow after arrow into a series of round targets 30 meters away. Their true targets, however, are much higher, for these are warriors recovering from injuries. They hope to bring home medals from the first Warrior Games and, beyond that, to show that their injured bodies can still be successful at physical endeavors.
"We don't want guys to just go home and watch TV, they need to keep in action," said Steve Bosson, a wounded warrior who has competed for national archery titles and at the European Grand Prix in England. "Military guys are very competitive. This is a stepping stone to get them active."
Ten Soldiers and one sailor trained at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, April 12-16 to prepare for archery competition at the Warrior Games, to be held in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10-14.
The games will feature some 200 of the most athletic wounded active-duty members and military veterans in Paralympic-style competition. The U.S. Olympic Committee will host the games, and events will include shooting, swimming, archery, track, discus, shot put, cycling, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.
"We want to inspire [disabled] soldiers to get out there and prove that there are a lot of things that they really can do," Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commander of U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command, said in an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
"It sort of reinforces the notion that all the services have: [The Warrior Games] is about your abilities, not your disabilities. Yes, your life may be changed, but it's not over."
"I respect these guys a whole lot. It raises their morale. They have serious mindsets," said Skip Dawson, who coaches archery for Fort Sam Houston's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department, and who provided instruction for the Army's Warrior Games team.
Travis Adkin, a Soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Hood, Texas, said he has hunted with bows, but this team is his first experience with target shooting.
"There's a huge difference, shooting at something that has a bull's eye, rather than at an animal," he said.
"Archery is relaxing. It helps keep my stress down. It's a competition, and I'll try to do my best. It will be good experience," Adkin added.
Shawn Porter, of the WTU at Brooke Army Medical Center on Fort Sam Houston, said he has shot hunting bows, but that is "a different setup - no sights, a more primitive weapon."
"I want to prove to myself I can do this," Porter said.
"I'm close to retiring. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete as a Soldier," said Eugene Ethengain IV, of the WTU at Fort Meade, Md. "I used to shoot when I was younger, but not at all for about two and a half years. This is good training. Hopefully I'll bring home a medal. I'll try for gold."
Dawson coaches a variety of athletes at Fort Sam Houston, some with disabilities and some not.
He said he has been an archer since 1948 and started working with Soldier archers in 1987.
"I'd see people wheeling around and I'd ask them about starting a sport," he said. "They have a smile on their face if they even hit the target."
Bosson, trained with Dawson while receiving treatment and therapy at Fort Sam Houston from 2005 to2007, and now is assigned to the Army World Class Athlete Program.
"I mentor for the Paralympic circuit. I reinforce what Skip teaches," he said.
"I went to a Paralympic summit just to get out of the hospital. I had never picked up a bow in my life," Bosson said. "It kept me active, and hopefully it will do the same for these guys."
(Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.)