Written by Patty Babb, Team Navy outreach coordinator
Competition is underway for the three Coast Guard men and women competing on behalf of Team Navy at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games. The team includes retired, Reserve and Active Duty service members – from across the country – who are seriously wounded, ill and injured.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jamie Byrd, a maritime enforcement specialist who was seriously injured during a defensive tactics training scenario in 2013, kicked off his first DoD Warrior Games experience with a bronze medal in the individual recurve archery competition. He is now preparing for this week’s shooting event, which will take place on June 25.
Retired Petty Officer 3rd Class Kristen Esget, a yeoman who was injured in an automobile accident in 2011,is also preparing to compete in the shooting event, and she will take part in the swimming event on June 27. This is her first DoD Warrior Games, as well.
Retired Lt. Sancho Johnson, who was injured in an automobile accident in 2009 that resulted in a spinal cord injury, is enjoying his fourth DoD Warrior Games experience, and, on June 21, he had a lot of fun at the cycling competition. He also took part in various field events, and while he hopes to bring home a medal, he is glad to simply compete.
Johnson reflected on his first DoD Warrior Games in 2010, and noted that he wasn’t yet strong enough to use a manual wheelchair at that time. During his very first seated shot put competition, his first throw landed at his feet.
“Everybody was cheering and clapping, and I was like, ‘That didn’t go anywhere,’” he said. “I realized it wasn’t about how far I threw. It was the fact I was throwing.”
After that experience, Johnson began researching adaptive sports, and he started pushing himself around in his wheelchair and building strength. He, and his teammates, noticed many positive changes in his outlook and physical abilities. His recovery process has not always been smooth, but he considers himself blessed.
Johnson is now married to Shundra, and they have two children.
He says that, when he met his wife, she “looked past the [wheelchair] and just saw me.” He calls his children his “life” and his “future.”
Johnson admitted to feeling a little nervous for the field competition, but he said he just planned to enjoy the day and do his best.
“I will give it my all, and that’s all I can do,” he said. “And that’s great.”
“It is a privilege to represent the U.S. Coast Guard at the DoD Warrior Games while competing alongside great athletes from the other branches of service,” Johnson added.
To follow Johnson’s progress at the Warrior Games, follow Navy Wounded Warrior on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about Navy Wounded Warrior by visiting their website or by calling 855-NAVY WWP.