By Stacy Neumann (Fort Carson)March 1, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Two Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion Soldiers are in the hunt to compete in the 2012 Warrior Games.
Staff Sgt. Krisell Creager-Lumpkins and Staff Sgt. Matt Bessler are battling for spots on the Army team for the annual competition between wounded, ill or injured members of the armed services.
Initially, 24 local Soldiers applied to make the Army team. The Fort Carson WTB came up with a comprehensive training program to get them ready to compete in sports such as shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and track and field events. The unit partners with LifeQuest Transitions, Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation and the United States Olympic Committee for adaptive sports training.
"It was a collaborative effort between everyone," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Pichette, WTB cadre member. "Nurse case managers, occupational therapists … basically everyone got on board to make them competitive."
Through a series of qualifying sports clinic trials held around the nation, the Army has whittled down Fort Carson's WTB applicants to Creager-Lumpkins and Bessler.
Creager-Lumpkins was inspired to try out after watching a battle buddy in last year's competition. She was recovering from injuries she sustained during training and deployment to Afghanistan.
"It was inspiring to watch the competitors," she said. "I couldn't put sentences together during my recovery. I learned I wasn't able-bodied, but I wasn't dead, thank God. I told my friends, 'I will be here next year.'"
Bessler is healing from injuries sustained in multiple improvised explosive device blasts.
"This gives me a goal. Your limitations are not a showstopper," Bessler said. "Competing is second nature to me. This is designed for healing of Soldiers and to show that life goes on."
Creager-Lumpkins agrees: "I put all my chips into my Army career. It's my passion. To find out you can't stay, it's heartbreaking. The games show that the physical and mental marry so beautifully. I have pride I didn't have before. Injuries don't define who I am, but they've amplified who I am."
The WTB has allowed the other Warrior Games applicants to continue to train alongside Bessler and Creager-Lumpkins. Pichette said he's even had more Soldiers asking how to get involved in training.
Both Bessler and Creager-Lumpkins hope to qualify and compete in multiple events.
The Army will name its final 50 Warrior Games competitors in March; the games take place in Colorado Springs April 30-May 3.
For the last two years, the Marines have won the most medals, taking home the Commander's Cup.
"I'm not scared," said Creager-Lumpkins. "Not this year."