Bliss Soldiers prove resiliency of wounded warriors

Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 10:42pm

Two Fort Bliss Soldiers suffering from physical and emotional pain have found a way to recover through adaptive sports reconditioning.

Staff Sgt. Billy Meeks, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kimberly A. Hendrix, assigned to Company B, Warrior Transition Battalion, competed in the 2014 United States Army Warrior Trials June 16 through 20 at the U.S. Army Military Academy in West Point, New York.

More than160 seriously wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Airman, Marines and veterans from across the country competed for a spot on their team for the upcoming 2014 Warrior Games scheduled to be held Sept. 28 through Oct. 4 in Colorado.

The Army Warrior Trials represent the resiliency of wounded warriors. The athletes who compete demonstrate the power to overcome their injuries by utilizing adaptive reconditioning by competing for gold, silver and bronze medals in a seven-sport category.

The categories in adaptive sports included archery, bicycling, swimming, track and field, sitting volleyball, wheelchair volleyball, and shooting.

“Adaptive reconditioning has done more for me than any medication or therapists,” Hendrix said.

Hendrix is a former helicopter pilot who survived an aviation accident in Afghanistan. Although suffering post-traumatic stress and depression since the incident, her participation in the 30-kilometer women’s open bicycle race earned her a gold medal.

“When I’m on the bike, I feel like me,” said Hendrix, who also brought home two silver medals in the 100- and 200-meter women’s open sprint race.

Each Warrior Transition Unit, including Fort Bliss, has a developed comprehensive transition plan with six dimensions to which each wounded warrior can apply personal goals.

By focusing on the family, career, physical, social, spiritual and emotional parts of the plan, the Paralympic Military Program, physical therapists and medical providers coordinated to incorporate sports into these Soldiers’ personalized treatment and recovery plans.

“This program is amazing and helps me and other service members focus on our abilities,” said Meeks, who suffers torn medial collateral ligament, torn labrum in his legs and numerous physical injuries.

“For some wounded athletes it is about overcoming their injuries quickly, but for me it is about learning how to deal with my injury one event at a time.” said Meeks.

Meeks competed in the shooting, compound archery and sitting volleyball events. He grabbed the bronze medal in the air pistol competition and received a gold medal for competing in the Army’s “green team” sitting volleyball event.

Overall, the Army team took home the most medals with 157 combined and two first-place trophies.

“The men and women are really strong and I am happy that the Army team took home most of the medals,” said Staff Sgt. Carlton Duncan, Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Unit, who helped Meeks compete against the Marines in the sitting volleyball competition.

Participants in all events included wounded warriors who have lower- and upper-body injuries with serious illnesses including traumatic brain injuries, visual impairment, and PTSD.

Besides the fierce competition, the events were designed to be therapeutic and to challenge the wounded warriors’ ability to overcome their injuries through resiliency and strength.

Meeks and Hendrix used adaptive sports as a critical part of their recovery and rehabilitation process. Interacting with other wounded warriors helped them feel like they were part of a team with similar wounds, they said.
“Adaptive sports helped me be competitive and allowed me to be around like-minded people.” said Meeks.   

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