By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
All of the Soldiers and Veterans who attended the first Warrior Transition Command (WTC) swimming clinic at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 10-11 wore swim suits designed to help them move faster in the water. For AW2 Veteran, Michael Kacer, his contact lenses were the accessory that enhanced his swimming experience.
“I have like 14 different pairs of contacts,” said Kacer, who wore a light blue pair of contacts that matched the water in the WRNMMC pool. “I have a pair to match almost every outfit.”
Kacer deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and sustained several injuries including a severed left arm, broken jaw, collapsed lungs, and three broken ribs from rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) missiles. He was one of 60 Army Soldiers and Veterans competing for a spot on the Army’s team for the 2012 Warrior Games team that will take place in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 30 – May 5.
“I participated in the Warrior Games two years ago and won the silver in the 200-meter dash,” Kacer said. “I wanted to get back into the competition and try different fields and see if I can bring home some medals, and help out the Army team as much as I can.”
Like Kacer, this is not the first year for many of the clinic’s participants to compete in the Warrior Games. SSG Stefanie Mason and MSG Rhoden Galloway, both gold medal winners in swimming for the Army during the 2011 Warrior Games, attended the clinics for additional training as they hope to attend this year’s games.
“I’m excited to compete in the games this year, if I am slected for the team.” Mason said. “It’s a wonderful program the military and the Olympic Committee put on. It helps the Wounded Warriors mentally and physically get better.”
However, there are a few new faces who have found this year’s games as an opportunity to compete and enjoy the camerderie during the swimming clinic.
“I had a broken neck, but now I’m off of profile and swimming has given me an opportunity to get back in shape,” said SPC Lacey Hamilton, who is currently recovering at the Fort Meade WTU. “I’m enjoying the camerderie during this clinic, because when you’re in a WTU, your focus is on healing and not necessarily on the camerderie.”
Retired SPC Robert Patterson of Phoenix, Arizona, who has a spinal cord injury from a motor vehicle accident in 1981, found out about the Warrior Games and contacted the WTC Adaptive Reconditioning Branch chief.
“I got pretty good at swimming and found out about Warrior Games, so I contacted LTC [Keith] Williams,” Patterson said. “I compete in triathlons and just wanted to try something different.”
“ I hope to compete in hand cycling events and the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events,” he added. “I’m a little nervous, but hoping for the best. I plan to keep trying no matter what.”
This year’s Army athletes will compete against each other during the clinics before being considered for a spot for the Army’s Warrior Games team. For some, these clinics gave them a chance to really get a feel for competing against each other.
“I was asked if I wanted to try for the Warrior Games. I said I would try, but I’m not a great swimmer,” said SFC Daniel Arnette, who had brain surgery after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. “Swimming was my therapy when I was injured. I was used to swimming, but I had never done it competively before
“This clinic really helped. The coach and staff really helped me with my technique,” Arnette added. “Even if I don’t make the team, I know what I have to work on and will try again next year.”
The final qualification swimming clinic for the 2012 Army Warrior Games swim team will be held Friday, March 9.