By L.A. ShivelyMay 28, 2010
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Warrior Transition Unit Soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center brought home gold, silver and bronze for a total of seven medals in the inaugural Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colo. The five-day competition drew to a close May 14.
Capt. Juan Guerrero captured gold in the Olympic-style 10-meter air rifle, shooting in the prone position.
Spc. Shawn Porter competed in both the 10-meter air rifle standing/non-supported and the 30-meter recurve-bow open events, bringing home the gold in the air rifle event.
Army archers swept the recurve-bow rounds, with Sgt. Michael Lukow winning gold. Staff Sgt. Robert Price earned bronze in the compound-bow event.
Other FSH winners included Sgt. Lilina Benning taking the bronze in shot put; Spc. Sergio Lara, bronze, 10-meter air rifle standing/non-supported and swimming; and Staff Sgt. Paul Roberts, bronze, 10-meter air rifle standing/non-supported and silver in wheelchair basketball.
The Warrior Games are a joint effort between the Department of Defense and the U.S. Olympic Committee to inspire recovery among wounded, ill, or injured service members, while capitalizing on physical fitness and promoting opportunities for growth and achievement.
Although he'd only had two weeks of training and shooting weapons was life-long a skill, Porter had post-traumatic stress disorder to overcome to win gold.
"It was pretty stressful," Porter said. "I shot my average going into the qualifications - the first two rounds - but I smoked the finals with 20-something points ahead of the second place guy."
Porter said the key to winning was controlling anxiety. "The biggest thing for me was pretending that nobody was there, focusing on the target and staying away from all the other stressors."
He said that although his training was short in duration it was intense for six- to eight-hour days and that is what helped him to quiet the dissonance in his brain.
"When I shoot, I can only focus on one thing, and I believe the sport has helped me therapeutically."
Porter said he used to be one of those Soldiers who didn't believe in PTSD.
Deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, Porter became ill and required surgery. While recovering in Germany he was diagnosed with PTSD and transported to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he has been undergoing treatment when he's not at the shooting range.
"This has been a real eye-opener for me," he said. "The PTSD did not manifest itself after I returned from Iraq, but I [was] diagnosed when I returned for surgery from Afghanistan during my second deployment."
Porter said he wanted to return to Afghanistan after surgery, but the PTSD prevented that from happening.
"It is an illness, and because I am seeing my psychologist twice a week, I am making great progress," he said. "When I returned home, I could not cope with being a dad and husband, and my family deserves that I get good treatment."
The sport is a healing aid, Porter said, because it has allowed his competitive nature to come to the forefront.
"We're both command specialist majors," joked Spc. Sergio Lara, referring to himself and Porter one morning on the archery range.
Lara nods adamantly while Porter explains that victory is mostly a state of mind over matter.
"I was stressing it, so it cost me some, but it's all good - it was exciting and fun," Lara said, referring to the Games. "We did our best and brought home some medals for Fort Sam."
Lara crushed two discs in his back from falling on ice during active duty with his unit in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, last year. After surgery, rehabilitation included shooting and swimming. His hobbies are now his passions.
"I brought home two bronze this year and will go for gold next," he said. "It gives you a boost of confidence."
What started as therapy, he said, has now become a victory for him, fellow Soldiers and the Army. "I want everybody to get out there and do the best they can."
"It gives me a chance to go out there and compete, rather than just hang out feeling sorry for myself," Porter agreed.
(Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada, Texas National Guard, contributed to this story)