Coast Guardsman says competing more important than winning

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Special thanks to  U.S. Navy Petty Officer Second Class William Selby for this post on Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class Michael Bell (Ret.) who received the first medal for the Navy/Coast Guard team (a bronze medal in cycling) at the inaugural Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Warrior Games is a partnership between the Pentagon and the U.S. Olympic Committee and features nearly 200 seriously wounded, ill, and injured service members representing all five of our nation’s military services.

Petty Officer Third Class Michael Bell (Ret.) approaching the finish line in the recumbent bike event at the 2010 Warrior Games. Bell would win teh bronze medal in the event. (U.S. Army photo by Beth Collins)
Retired Petty Officer Third Class Michael Bell (right) approaching the finish line in the recumbent bike event at the 2010 Warrior Games. Bell would win the bronze medal in the event. (U.S. Army photo by Beth Collins)

Post written by U.S. Navy Petty Officer Second Class William Selby.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with retired Coast Guardsmen Michael Bell who coincidentally received the first medal today for the Navy/Coast Guard team. Bell received the bronze medal in Recumbent Cycling.

Bell was in the Coast Guard for five years until November 2007, when he suffered intracranial bleeding on the right side of his brain, or more commonly known as a stroke, paralyzing the right side of his body.

Bell explained that after his stroke, he had to relearn everyday things that most people take for granted, but it made him stronger.

After he received his medical retirement from the Coast Guard, Bell’s mother continued to try and get her son involved with some activities through the Coast Guard. With no luck after almost a year, his mother discovered Navy Safe Harbor program which provides disabled veterans and active duty servicemembers an avenue to compete in athletic games, which is what brought Bell to the 2010 Warrior Games.

WarriorGamesFor Bell and the athletes competing in Warrior Games, being part of the Games isn’t just about winning or losing. In fact, to him, “It’s about getting back out there and showing others that it can be done.”

Throughout my short time with Bell, I realized, he wasn’t uncomfortable being interviewed, or even shy. He’s selfless.

While listening to the interview, I realized Bell didn’t say “I” very much. It was a lot of, “they”, and “them.”

Bell didn’t speak of his accomplishments; instead I had to hear those from his colleagues. Like how much time he spends giving to others or how he does miles of bike riding for charity.

When I asked him if he would continue to be involved with the Navy Safe Harbor program, he said, “I doubt it. I’m sure there are a lot of people who deserve my slot more than I do, especially when they’ve sacrificed so much.”

Bell is in college currently and he hopes to get a degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, with a minor in Psychology so he can help others with similar injuries.

“It’s given me an overwhelming sense of pride to compete with the other athletes, and it’s even better to represent something,” he said.

Click here to watch an NBC Nightly News report on the Warrior Games.

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