This week’s post on community is particularly dear to my heart, as I’ve known its author since the day she arrived on this earth. I’m glad my sister’s shared her heart, and I’m proud of my brother-in-law’s warrior efforts. Ready on, be inspired, and DO leave a comment for Mikey and Aleah below!
Six years ago on St. Patty’s Day my best friend was hurt badly, and I was one of the corpsman that took care of him that night onboard a ship floating around the Mediterranean. He had half of his body burned by steam and inhalation burns after being trapped near relief valve that should not have opened. A week later he was in an Army burn unit in San Antonio and after surgery recuperated for months there.
Upon arrival and during his four months at BAMC (Brooks Army Medical Center), he was greeted by representatives of Navy Safe Harbor and the Wounded Warrior Project. Both of these organizations care for wounded and ill men and women from the Navy, as well as all branches of service, respectively. At first, Mike had trouble accepting that he was a “Wounded Warrior” because he was not harmed in combat.
Every spring the Wounded Warrior Project holds Paralympics-style games between four teams, represented by the major branches of service, and this is where I feel a sense of community.
Although I am not directly involved in these games, I am now the spouse of a Wounded Warrior because about a year after his accident, my best friend and I realized we were meant to be more than friends. Having been married almost four years now, we also have an eight-month old boy named Anthony.
The Warrior games are held for a week every year in Colorado Springs. The foundations that sponsor it send two family members out and pay for their hotel stay and some food and transportation the entire time. The warriors swim, do track and field, shoot guns and archery, and play floor volleyball and wheelchair basketball.
And this is where community happens: everyone there cheers for each other, giving one another hugs and pep talks, bending over backwards for their teammate. The fact that one has no legs isn’t an issue – just bring his prosthetic to the other end of the pool for him for when he gets out of the water!
Last year I found a hero. He happened to be on our ship with us before having a stroke at 40, leaving his left side paralyzed. “Boats” would cheer people on and make us laugh every chance he got. He was in a long-distance recumbent bike race and on the first turn broke the bike chain. This man, with his left foot and hand taped to the pedal and handle bars, somehow pushed through the rest of the three-mile track because he swore he would never teach his son to quit. When word caught on to the rest of the team, everyone that could ran to his sides, cheering him on, and jogging along with him the remaining quarter mile of track.
It showed me over and over that it didn’t matter what was wrong. Help was provided the second anyone needed assistance. Everyone on the team knew each other’s story and poked fun when appropriate. [One amputee has a tattoo on his remaining leg that has a finger pointing to the other side and says “I’m with stumpy”.]
During the couple of weeks they’re in Colorado, or at training camps held before hand, the issues that plague them on a daily basis are finally okay.
Each is accepted.
No one stares at scars or a lack of a limb …or all four.
They love meeting the families and want updates on the babies born or the care received, and are genuinely excited at the positive outcomes. They mourn when a brother or sister in arms passes after years of fighting a physical battle.
Near the end of the games are the biggest competitions which are for medals. During floor volleyball there are two games going on in the same gym. The winners of both compete for the gold and silver medals.
Once, our game wasn’t completed yet and the other was, and to our surprise, one of their teams and all the families started chanting and yelling for our teams. The other stomped and yelled for our opposing team. That is when I realized more than every that it didn’t matter why we were all there. All of us had a loved one that caused our hearts to race in a panic and have sleepless nights from worrying.
I am lucky that my husband is one of the few who was physically and psychologically able to return to his job, unlike some of the men and women.
This is the strongest sense of community I have ever known. Despite our physical distance throughout the country, the Wounded Warriors are an amazing community.
Last year I was seven months pregnant when we went out, and this year Mikey gets to show off his 10 month old boy and his wifey. His first medal won last year, in an archery team competition, is hanging in his room. Mike hopes to win gold of silver to hang up next to it.
For more information, check out the Wounded Warrior Project.
Thank you, sister. Thank you, Mikey. Thank you, Wounded Warriors. Please, leave a comment for them below (and, as always, if you’re just checking out this site, cheer on Cara’s writing by subscribing today!).0