by Capt. Daryl Schaffer
Wounded Warrior Games Competitor
I was always very active in sports before joining the U.S. Coast Guard. When I enlisted in December 1990, I continued that lifestyle biking to CGHQ, playing volleyball, running 5Ks to marathons, and doing many triathlons and more than 26 years later, I received my most recent promotion on July 1, 2017. When I woke up the next morning, Sunday, July 2, 2017, I was having problems holding my right arm steady. A trip to the emergency room confirmed I was having a stroke and they gave me a drug to break-up the blockage; four days later I was discharged but had “a starboard list” – I lean or drift to the right when standing or walking. Not the kind of future an active person expected.
A few months later I started light physical activity and was introduced to the Navy Wounded Warrior Program which is the Navy’s sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care and needs of seriously wounded, ill, and injured Navy and CG members. One area I became involved in was adaptive sports. After attending several training camps, I was one of three CG members fortunate enough to be selected to represent Team Navy and participate in the 2019 Department of Defense Wounded Warrior Games in Tampa, FL, June 21-30, 2019. I received a silver medal in bicycling 30KM road race, gold medal in swimming 50M backstroke, an honorary gold in sitting volleyball, and was humbled to be recognized by my Navy teammates with the Heart of the Team Award.
While the competition is a wonderful aspect of the camps and Games, the real benefit is the camaraderie with fellow Wounded Warriors. Seeing their development and accomplishments in sports they may have never tried helps my recovery as well. To not be focused on a lost brain cell, limb, eyesight, or PTSD memory really put life into a different perspective. One warrior mentioned, “if it had not been for the adaptive sports and Warrior Games programs, I would not be alive today” as they were on the verge of suicide due to their injury. That is why this program means so much to me…and to all Wounded Warriors.
I returned to my Coast Guard duties and will be allowed to complete a regular military retirement but need to use a cane when walking. I have many newfound friends who I truly feel an equal bond with but mostly, a realization my life has changed. When asked of a motto I live by, I replied “Live your dash to the fullest” in homage to the poem, The Dash, by Linda Ellis, which looked at the beginning and the end dates on a tombstone, but what mattered most was the dash between those years.