FORT BLISS – When SGT Christopher Campos faced despair in the wake of his long recovery from a brutal injury in Somalia in 2018, he turned to one place for motivation: his twin daughters and son. And now, with the help of them and the men and women of the Fort Bliss, Texas Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU), he could be back on duty later this year.
Campos described his 5-year-old twin daughters and 3-year-old son as his “rock” as he battled with both the physical and mental aspects of recovering from an injury. “They help keep me pushing,” he said. “I see them and I think, ‘Alright, I’ve got to push harder.'”
Campos has served 12 years in the Army, including a tour in Iraq in 2008-09. But it was a deployment in Somalia two years ago that altered the course of his life.
“What landed me in a WTU [Warrior Transition Unit, now a Soldier Recovery Unit] was I was out conducting patrols and basically had a fall, tearing my knees,” Campos said. “I didn’t think anything of it, and so I started doing PT with my guys.”
But when he returned to the United States, they took a closer at his knees — and realized the problem was much worse than anyone realized.
“They saw that I had torn my Medial Collateral Ligament in both knees,” he said.
That’s when Campos found himself suddenly on his way to the Fort Bliss SRU and unsure of what his future in the Army held. It was the start of a long recovery process that continues to this day.
“I did a lot of physical therapy and injections,” he said. “I had five surgeries altogether. They had to get eyes on the inside of the knee to see how bad it was, and extract some cartilage samples. Then they actually opened up the knee, repaired the MCL, put cartilage behind the kneecap, put screws at the base of the kneecap, and they did that with both knees.”
But it was the mental aspect that proved most challenging. The toughest part was being away from his children, and Campos also said it was a “bit of a culture shock” when he arrived at Fort Bliss. Fortunately, the staff made him feel welcome.
“They weren’t so much worried about my job status, it was like, ‘Hey, you’re here to get recovered,'” he said.
That support helped as he battled doubt and even guilt over his injury.
“The aspect of being a Soldier, I felt really low on it,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was much of a Soldier because I wasn’t with them at the time — wasn’t with the squad.”
That’s where he discovered adaptive sports, and it soon became an obsession for him.
“I started to feel like I had meaning again,” he said. “Once the Army Trials came, I was able to compete and represent my unit and my care team.”
The Army Trials happen every spring at Fort Bliss, and they feature a mixture of events ranging from powerlifting to archery to cycling to shotput. Campos competed in multiple events during the 2019 Army Trials.
Campos was excited to participate in 2020 — but then COVID-19 happened, and the event was cancelled.
“I took a pretty good jab to the heart on that one,” he said. “I did all this training, and now this? What do I do now?”
He faced another disappointment when the DoD Warrior Games were also cancelled, but he picked himself back up and reminded himself of all the recovery and strength he had gotten while training with the SRU.
Today, he continues to spend much of his time working out and staying engaged with Army fitness coaches.
“I get workouts pushed out to me daily from a powerlifting coach, the same thing from a volleyball coach, rowing coach, cycling coach — I pretty much do everything,” he said. “Once I get my hands on a rower, I’ll start doing that.”
Campos is hopeful he’s reaching the end of his recovery and he’ll be back on duty within the next few months. He still plans to compete in Army Trials when they return, and he hopes to ultimately make the DoD team.
He owes much of his success to the SRU that helped him get back in action after a difficult time in his life.
“For me as an individual Soldier, the SRU actually means a lot,” he said. “There’s a lot of tools that are provided from the SRU that will benefit a lot of people and a lot of injured Soldiers who sit here and feel like there’s nothing they can do to continue on as a soldier. An SRU will help them see that there’s hope.”
Author: D.P. Taylor – Army Recovery Care Program