By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander
(L-R) U.S. Paralympian and Army Veteran John Register and BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander, addressed WTC staff and cadre at the WTC Winter Conference.
Yesterday, U.S. Paralympian and Army Veteran John Register addressed more than 400 WTC staff and cadre gathered for the WTC Winter Conference. John, who now works for the U.S. Olympic Committee, shared his personal story—in 1994, he was an elite-level athlete training for the 1996 Olympic Games when he fell in training and suffered multiple injuries: a hyper-extended knee, broken leg, and shredded artery. Because of the artery injury, John’s doctors offered him two choices: use a wheel-chair or walker for the rest of his life, or amputate the leg.
John focused on his abilities and his goals, and wasted no time getting back in shape. In the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, he competed in swimming, but was most inspired by amputees competing in track and field—his sport. He realized he could do that too, and in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, John won a silver medal in the long jump.
John’s story is an example for all wounded warriors. When confronted with a life-altering situation, John’s attention turned to what he could do and to setting the goals it would take to get him to the next stage. John wanted to compete in the U.S. Olympic Games, and he wanted to continue actively living his life. By setting and achieving small goals, such as perfecting his stride and shaving seconds off his time, John worked incrementally to achieve his larger goal. Not only did he achieve the goal of competing in the Olympics, he won a silver medal.
“When you are injured, you need to accept and embrace the things that are out of your control and open your boundaries,” Register told the crowd. “Injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members have had everything stripped away from them, yet they have the intestinal fortitude to get it back. That’s the inspirational power of sports.”
Most wounded warriors stand to benefit tremendously from adaptive sports, activities that help them embrace their abilities. I encourage all Warriors in Transition (WT) to talk to their squad leader about adaptive sports opportunities in their area and to challenge their boundaries on the athletic field.
All WTC staff and cadre are excited about the upcoming Warrior Games on May 10-15 at the U.S. Olympic Facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. One hundred Soldiers will compete against 100 Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in nine events. These warrior athletes are all currently actively training, meeting their incremental goals and inspiring other WTs in their units.