Competing in the Warrior Games also helped this Navy officer fight breast cancer

Lt. Cmdr. Maria G. Mannix is a Navy surface warfare officer who is competing in the 2016 Warrior Games. The cancer fighter has had to juggle her time between doctor appointments, her duties as a deputy director of the Training Support Center in San Diego, and training for the Warrior Games where she’s a competitor in shot put, discus, rifle shooting, and sitting volleyball.

The Warrior Games are an annual competition held by the Department of Defense where wounded and sick service members compete in an Olympic-style competition.

Mannix says that – despite the challenge of being an athlete and Navy officer while fighting cancer – participating in the Warrior Games and other sports competitions with the Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor program has been an important part of her recovery.

US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Maria Gomez-Mannix competes in the Pacific Trials for the 2015 Warrior Games. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal

US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Maria Gomez-Mannix competes in the Pacific Trials for the 2015 Warrior Games. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal

“Safe Harbor has really been a positive part of my recovery process because you meet other teammates that have serious illnesses and serious injuries and you see how they’re dealing with whatever they have, and it’s inspirational. It gives you a different outlook on things,” she said.

It’s not just Mannix’s teammates who help push her forward. The competition from wounded warriors on other teams helps as well.

“I had met a lot of the other athletes from different branches, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force,” she said, “and the more I got to make friends in other branches the more I realized that I needed to step up my game. It’s wonderful to make new friends but you also get to see the competitive edge from everybody else that’s going to be at the games as well. It helped me to focus on improving my athletic skills and trying to get my upper body strength to the best fitness I could have to be here for the games.”

US Navy Lt. Cmdr Maria Gomez-Mannix receives a medal in the 2015 Warrior Games. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Terry W. Miller Jr.

US Navy Lt. Cmdr Maria Gomez-Mannix receives a medal for her performance in a field event of the 2015 Warrior Games. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Terry W. Miller Jr.

That upper body strength is very important for Mannix. She’s fighting breast cancer and her surgeries have made training a challenge, but a strong upper body is vital to her performance.

“I’ve had multiple upper body surgeries which, anatomically, have changed my upper thoracic cavity. It’s more than just getting ready for the games. It’s PT and rehabilitation as well. But when you’re on the volleyball court, you’re literally using your hands as your legs and you have to be quick so you can react to the ball. There’s a lot of muscle strength that you need to have there. Same with my field events, I’m doing shotput and discus throwing. Again, it’s more of an upper body requirement.”

Mannix says that this training and competition helps patients connect in a way they can’t with their care providers or loved ones.

“We’re having a fantastic time playing and competing, but we’re also recovering and helping each other in a way you’re not going to get talking to a counselor or your doctor or your nurse or even your family and friends. It’s a different type of bond and it’s a different kind of camaraderie.”

“You expand the support network you already have,” she said. “Everybody wants to come home with the gold medal and be the winner, in the end, when the games are done, you hug and you say, ‘The games are over. Let’s go have some fun now.'”

The Navy sitting volleyball team was eliminated early in the tournament, but the field events are taking place Jun. 16 when Mannix will compete in discus and shot put. She will also compete in shooting on Jun. 19.

Viewers can find the games schedule, live streaming schedules, and event results at DoDlive.mil. Updates are also available at the Warrior Games Twitter account.

TOP ARTICLES
SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

SpaceX is launching a secretive mission this month. The mission, shrouded in secrecy, has some considering it may be for the CIA or the NSA.

This is how the Air Force will use prop planes on high-tech battlefields

The Air Force is looking toward a light-attack aircraft program, known as OA-X, to produce a plane that meets its needs and gets the job done.

A retired SEAL commander on how to stop thinking and 'get after it' every day

This former Navy commander has some excellent advice on how to jump start your day, and "get some" in order to make it as productive as possible.

Marines return to battle in 'old stomping grounds'

The Marines recall their "old stomping grounds" as they return to Fallujah and the surround areas of Al Anbar Province to battle a new enemy.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

China has stepped up it's drone game, and even though United States technology can still compete, China's drones are kind of really in demand.

That time two countries' Special Forces squared off in combat

In an area the size of the Falkland Islands, British and Argentine special operators were bound to run into each other at some point – a lot.

5 times pilots got in trouble for having fun in the sky

When pilots decide to do some fancy flying in their high-performance fighters, it can land them in trouble once they're back on the ground.

This is why Nazis dubbed these paratroopers 'devils in baggy pants'

"American paratroopers – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night," wrote one German commander.

9 ISIS weapon fails that you have to see to believe

Many bad guys just want record themselves laying rounds down range for social media purposes — and we're glad they did. Laugh away, America!

US Army recruitment campaigns, ranked from worst to best

Advertising can really impact recruitment for the military. For better or for worse, here are some of the Army's most memorable slogans...