Articles

These athletes are gearing up for the Warrior Games

Sergeant Ryan Major's life changed forever in a flash and a bang in November 2006.


While deployed in Iraq, the infantry soldier from Baltimore stepped on an improvised explosive device. He lost both of his legs and several fingers on both hands.

Major, now retired, was one of about 70 wounded soldiers and veterans from across the Army who gathered at Fort Bliss the first week of April to compete in the Army Trials.

The event, which was held at Fort Bliss for the third straight year, is used to determine the Army's team at the upcoming Warrior Games, an Olympic-style event for wounded, injured and ill service members of all branches. This year, the Warrior Games will be held in Chicago June 30 to July 8.

Army Trials for 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games. (Dept. of Defense News photo by EJ Hersom)

Participating in adaptive sports helped to get Major out of a serious depression he had fallen into after being severely wounded, he said. Adaptive sports are designed or modified for disabled athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or injuries.

"Before I got injured I loved competition, sports, and getting into shape," said Major, who represented the Baltimore Veterans Affairs at the Army Trials.

Participating in adaptive sports "changed my life," he said.

"It made me more sociable with other veterans who have similar injuries and stories," Major said.

Sports also helped him to have a more positive attitude about his injuries, he added.

During the Army Trials, Army athletes in wheelchairs, with prosthetic limbs, and some with injuries that weren't apparent at first glance competed in a variety of events.

They came from more than a dozen installations and participated in track and field, cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, and seated volleyball.

Most had compelling stories, like Major, about how participating in sports got them out of a dark place and thrust them into a new chapter in their lives.

2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games Bicycling. (Dept. of Defense photo by EJ Hersom)

Lt. Col. Luis Fregoso was one of the organizers of the Army Trials with the Warrior Care and Transition Program in Arlington, Va. This Army organization oversees the most critical cases of wounded, injured, and ill soldiers and helps them transition back to active duty or to civilian life.

Sports can play a huge role in the healing process, said Fregoso, who is from Los Angeles.

"A lot of soldiers, when they have this life-changing event happen to them, they will get into a dark place," Fregoso said. "The common theme is they just don't feel their normal self and start spiraling into a bad area, especially in their mind."

Sports help them to adapt to their "new normal" and can give them the confidence to tackle other areas in their lives, Fregoso added.

Retired Master Sgt. Shawn "Bubba" Vosburg still has the look of a soldier out on a mission. But he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury, and a slew of other injuries up and down his body.

Competing in sports helps to "tie you back to the military," said Vosburg, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., but now calls El Paso home. He represented Fort Bliss during the recent competition.

"You do so much time in the military, and you lose that when you retire," Vosburg said. "But (adaptive sports) introduces you to new people whom you consider friends and family, and that family is growing."

Vosburg credits sports for saving his life and he wants to return the favor to his fellow veterans.

He is working on a master's degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso and wants to help "bring more soldiers out of the dark, like I came out of," he said.

Also read: Here's what happens when a wounded warrior uses his arm for the first time in 10 years

Retired Staff Sgt. Isaac Rios was shot multiple times and was hit by a mortar round during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For many veterans, leaving the service and going back to civilian life is a culture shock and even downright scary, Rios said.

A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 Warrior Games. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)

Sports, however, helped to give him a new way of looking at life, said the Brooklyn, N.Y., native who represented Fort Bragg, N.C.

"You can't let anyone tell you that you can't do it," Rios said.

Sgt. 1st Class Julio Cesar Rodriguez, of Worcester, Mass, battles depression and an arthritic hip.

Participating in sports, like archery, gives you something to do and something else to focus on besides the darkness clouding your mind, said Rodriguez, who represented Fort Gordon, Ga.

"It taught me to remove those negative, dark items out of my mind and focus on the present and my way forward in the future," he said.
GEAR & TECH

6 of the most notable pre-M16 military guns

Throughout history, the U.S. Military has used a wide variety of guns to win its battles. Prior to the M16, there were several weapons used across the service throughout some of the most devastating wars the world has ever seen.

Here are some of those weapons:

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
International

China and the US could end up in a war – here's what would happen

It's unlikely that the U.S.-China trade dispute is going to escalate to a full-scale war any time soon — but it's not impossible. Neither side is inclined to go to war with the other, but a war of that scale is what both plan to fight. All it would take is one bungled crisis, one itchy trigger finger, one malfunctioning automated defense system and the entire region could become a war zone.

Keep reading... Show less
Lists

Here are the best military photos for the week of April 20th

The military is always evolving and new things happen every day. With each changes comes a new set of challenges and new opportunities to succeed. Thankfully, there are many talented photographers in the community that capture these struggles and triumphs.

Keep reading... Show less
History

5 ways troops accidentally 'blue falcon' the rest of the platoon

Every now and then, the pricks known as 'Blue Falcons' come and ruin things for everyone else. They break the rules and make everyone else suffer. They rat out their brothers- and sisters-in-arms. They even damage the reputation of others to make themselves look better.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

Why I'm thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.

Keep reading... Show less
History

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.

Known as "drop tanks," these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they're hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.

Keep reading... Show less

The hilarious ways Chinese police are combating jaywalkers

China is so desperate to stop jaywalkers it has turned to spraying them with water.

In Daye, in the central Hubei province, one pedestrian crossing has had a number of bright yellow bollards installed that spray wayward pedestrians' feet with water mist.

Keep reading... Show less