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Wounded soldiers from across US show resilience during Army Trials at Fort Bliss

In a Feb. 28, 2018 file photo, Sgt. Cory Ivins performs a warm-up exercise while Adriane Wilson, powerlifting event coach, provides resistance during training for the 2018 Army Trials.

REGIONAL HEALTH COMMAND - CENTRA

By DAVID BURGE | El Paso Times, Texas | Published: March 8, 2018

EL PASO, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Sgt. Cory Ivins was at the top of his game in the Army and was trying to get into airborne school.

At the time, the Decatur, Ga., native was stationed in Germany. He overtrained trying to get into the best shape of his life and tore tendons in both knees about two years ago.

Ivins was one of about 75 wounded, injured or ill active-duty soldiers and veterans who have been competing at the Army Trials this week at Fort Bliss.

These athletes have been competing for spots on the team that will represent the Army at the Department of Defense Warrior Games in June in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Sports included track and field, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, cycling, and seated volleyball. The competition ends Thursday.

Ivins, who represented the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Stewart, Ga., said he was in a “bad place” and was depressed before he discovered adaptive sports — sports that have been modified so people with disabilities or injuries can compete.

“As a soldier, you have to be resilient,” Ivins said. “You have to bounce back. That is what they teach you. Unfortunately, it took me a little longer than I wanted.”

Fort Bliss hosted the Army Trials for the fourth straight year.

Army Warrior Care and Transition out of Arlington, Va., ran the weeklong event. The organization oversees Army programs designed to care for and help wounded soldiers transition back to duty or to civilian life. Warrior transition battalions help carry out that mission at installations across the Army.

Lt. Col. Heath Tortarella, the operations officer for the Army Trials, said sporting events like these help wounded, injured and ill soldiers in their recovery.

“We are looking to help soldiers find new positive experiences, and this is one piece of it, the adaptive sports,” said Tortarella, from Rhinebeck, N.Y.

“It can give them a new focus and identify new passions,” he said.

Sgt. Samuel Daniels severely injured his back when he took fire and fell out of a vehicle while deployed in Iraq. He wasn’t hit but ended up landing on a large rock.

Daniels, who represented the Warrior Transition Battalion at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, has been through three major surgeries on his back.

“Doctors said I probably wouldn’t be able to run again; I proved them wrong,” said Daniels, from Trenton, N.J.

Competing at the Army Trials also gave him plenty of motivation from seeing other athletes who are injured far worse than he is.

“This type of event shows you have different limitations, but it isn’t stopping you from being able to do it,” Daniels said.

Sgt. Craig Netter, from Fort Worth, represented the Fort Hood Warrior Transition Battalion at the Army Trials.

Netter injured his shoulder while deployed and has been battling post-traumatic stress disorder.

Being around other wounded soldiers who have overcome their injuries has been inspiring, Netter said.

“There are no limitations here,” Netter said. “Everyone is like a family here.”

Former Maj. Lisa Maddox had to have her leg amputated after a series of knee surgeries and a subsequent leg injury caused severe nerve damage.

Maddox, from Augusta, Ga., said it was a great feeling to be back around soldiers again.

“You don’t feel this camaraderie outside of the military,” she said. “You feel like you are back with your brothers and sisters.”

Maddox, a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor, competed in a wide range of events, but tennis is her real passion. Tennis is not part of the Army Trials or the Warrior Games, but she gave a demonstration Friday to her fellow wounded soldiers while at Fort Bliss.

“Competition helps to spark a flame you might have lost when you were injured,” Maddox said. “It helps you prove things more to yourself than to other people.”

Maj. Eric Lintelmann, from the Fort Carson, Colo., Warrior Transition Battalion, tore the labrum in his shoulder while deployed.

Lintelmann, from Elizabeth, Colo., said competing in adaptive sports and participating in the Army Trials “gives you something different to focus on.”

Everyone in the Army is competitive by nature, Lintelmann said.

“Being able to find something to focus that energy on is amazing,” he said.

dburge@elpasotimes.com

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