By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
SSG Marcia Morris-Roberts, an Army Warrior Games swimmer mentally prepares to compete in the 50-meter freestyle swimming event.
As I sit at the pool, listening to the chatter and the cheers of the athletes who are competing in the 2011 Warrior Games swimming events, I start to think if I were in their situation, would I have the courage to do what they are doing? Would I be able to embrace what has happened to me and show that it is not stopping me from accomplishing new goals? Would I be able to inspire and motivate another person by just talking about my injuries and explaining how this has not crushed my spirit, but only made me stronger?
The swimming competitors are coming together to train and hone in and sharpen their skills. While they practice diving into the pool, racing against each other, and working on their swimming techniques, the phrase “There is no such thing as handicapped, we are handi-capable,” is showcased throughout the training sessions. One AW2 Soldier in particular, SSG Marcia Morris-Roberts, uses this as her own personal motto.
Morris-Roberts, who will be competing in the 50-meter freestyle swim event, had a difficult year. In February 2010, when leaving for Smyrna, TN to receive additional training as a supply specialist, the military specialty she had been working in for the past two of her sixteen year career, she had no way of knowing what was in store for her.
While attending her training course, Morris-Roberts began to develop mysterious symptoms. “I was so cold and my fingers and toes were turning purple and causing a terrible pain,” Morris-Roberts said. “At first I thought it was just a symptom of me having lupus. I thought it would get better if I better managed taking my medicine, but it only got worse.”
After the month-long training course was over, Morris-Roberts made the trip back to her home in Georgia. When she went into work the next day, she was still in pain.
“It felt like a pit bull had bit my foot. I finally decided to go to the doctor, to figure out what was going on,” she said. “I knew if I went during my training course the doctors would admit me to the hospital because of my lupus. I would have failed the course because you can’t miss more than eight hours. ”
After several visits with physicians, she learned that it wasn’t her lupus, it was frost-bite and she was suffering the onset of gangrene. Eventually, she had to have her left leg, one toe from her right foot, and her third finger on her right hand amputated.
“The amputation was ultimately my decision,” she said. “I didn’t want them to keep cutting section by section, so I just told them to take the leg.”
Morris-Roberts has not let what happened in the past year keep her from having a positive outlook and looking for the silver lining.
“I appreciate the opportunity to participate and share with others,” Morris-Roberts said. “Even though we are physically challenged, we are still human and can do anything.”
“My goal is to become a motivational speaker. I’ve always wanted to wear a smile on my face,” she added. “Through hard work and perseverance, I want to motivate people.”
“It’s just amazing the things you see people work their way through,” she said. “I really want to assist Soldiers with injuries more serious than mine and help them find their way with the support of their Families.”
Growing up, she was a cheerleader, played softball and basketball. She was also an avid cyclist, and rollerbladed regularly. She also said participating and competing in sports helps her to feel normal. She continues to work out several times a week and maintains a very active lifestyle.
“Adaptive sports are a great tool for the physically challenged and what better way to show our therapists the hard work has paid off,” Morris-Roberts said. “The team building and camaraderie keeps everyone motivated.”
“I’m participating in Warrior Games to challenge and motivate myself and show other amputees that they can do the same and more,” Morris-Roberts explained. “I am inspired to compete in the Warrior Games as a personal challenge.”
Morris-Roberts’ ultimate goals are to continue serving in the Army as a model Soldier and have a positive impact by inspiring others.
“I love the military and take my career seriously. I plan to get better, stay focused, participate in team building events, and be a beacon to light the paths of other Soldiers,” she said. “I’ll be that light that inspires others to be better than they were.”
Editor’s Note: SSG Marcia Morris-Roberts also competed in the shot put sitting field event on Tuesday and earned a silver medal.