On Friday, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Warrior Care and Transition announced the 40 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans who will represent Team Army at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games, and two area soldiers made the team.
U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Mya Leigh Gordon of Fort Bliss and Retired Staff Sgt. Beth King of Deming (NM) will join their Army teammates in Tampa, Florida June 21 – 30 for the Warrior Games, hosted by the U.S. Special Operations Command.
Sports have always played a large part in U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Mya Leigh Gordon’s life. The Duluth, Minnesota native has always held a spot in high school and collegiate sports teams before being commissioned in the Army Reserves in 2011.
In 2018, after being activated to support the Mobilization and Deployment Brigade, out of Fort Bliss, Texas, Gordon’s life changed dramatically after a regular physical training session one morning.
“We were doing (physical training) one morning and I couldn’t feel any (sensation) in my shoulder, but afterward I found it hard to shower and knew it didn’t feel right,” said Gordon. “I went to the doctor got an MRI and doctors found a slap tear.”
A SLAP tear, as it is commonly referred to, stands for Superior Labral tear Anterior to Posterior, a painful injury in the shoulder which prevents overhead movements and other discomforts. The diagnosis was a devastating upset to Gordon, who was slated to return home a few months after the diagnosis.
“I’ve always been an athlete. In high school, I played soccer, hockey, and softball, and in college I played softball and hockey,” said Gordon, who continued her love of sports even after graduating college by coaching a softball team for five more years. “(The injury) was a big downer at first. I was in a sling for six weeks and it was rough.”
Following her surgery, Gordon opted to stay at Fort Bliss to continue her medical care and was assigned to the Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion, where she was introduced to the adaptive sports program.
Almost a year after her initial surgery, Gordon is joined nearly 100 other wounded, ill or injured athletes, competing for a spot to represent the Army during the 2019 Army Trials at Fort Bliss. Gordon competed in Archery, cycling, field events, and swimming at the trials.
As for Staff Sgt. King, her road to the games started in Eastern Afghanistan while trying to land her Chinook helicopter.
“I was four feet from the blast in which I sustained a traumatic brain injury, injuries to my jaw and spine, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The married mother of one son did not want to leave her house and struggled to feel whole again as she recovered from the blast. “I felt very much like I was just an empty shell physically, as well as emotionally. I was very depressed and really struggled with the ‘why’ of it,” said King.
Finally, after denying the idea for a time, King began participating in adaptive sports.
“What is the point of a life on the sidelines when I have always been in the middle of it all,” King recalled asking herself. “My occupational therapist told me I should try out cycling. In my mind, I was sure I couldn’t do it, but figured I would just appease her and try it.”
Approximately 300 warrior athletes with upper-body, lower-body, and spinal cord injuries; traumatic brain injuries; visual impairment; serious illnesses; and post-traumatic stress will engage in friendly competition and experience the healing power of sports.
The Warrior Games were established in 2010 as a way to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors and to expose them to adaptive sports.
The Paralympic-style competition between teams of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and SOCOM has grown to new heights as it prepares to light the torch for the 10th time.
This year’s Warrior Games will include a record five additional teams from U.S. allied nations: the Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, the United Kingdom Armed Forces, the Danish Armed Forces and the Dutch Armed Forces. The Warrior Games was also the inspiration and motivation for the Invictus Games, which is hosted by His Royal Highness Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.
The 10 teams will go head-to-head in 14 adaptive sports: archery, track, field, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road race cycling, time trial cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and new this year golf, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis.
This year’s Games will continue the tradition of showing the amazing resilience of wounded, ill and injured servicemen and women from across the world and their ability to thrive and overcome their challenges.
The active duty and veteran athletes selected to represent Team Army at the 2019 DoD Warrior Games are:
Sgt. Jonathan Alexander, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Arnold, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Sgt. Aaron Averre, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Spc. Nikita Bowen, Fort Drum, New York
Staff Sgt. Matthew Brown, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas
Pfc. Kyia Costanzo, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Sgt. 1st Class Ian Crawley, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Capt. David Espinoza, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Fontenot, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Sgt. 1st Class Angel Gonzalez-Cintron, Fort Carson, Colorado
Capt. Mya Gordon, Fort Bliss, Texas
Spc. Austin Harwick, Fort Drum, New York
Spc. Kevin Holyan, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas
Sgt. Cory Ivins, Fort Stewart, Georgia
Spc. Stephanie Johnson, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland
Sgt. Tanner Kane, Fort Carson, Colorado
Sgt. 1st Class Jay Martin, Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Spc. Christopher Mask, Fort Stewart, Georgia
Sgt. 1st Class Shannon McLimans, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Sgt. Gleimarie Mendoza, Fort Hood, Texas
Capt. Shirley Morales, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Spc. Desiree Price, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Staff Sgt. Paul Reifke, Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Sgt. Jorge Rodriguez, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas
Sgt. 1st Class Tiffany Rodriguez-Rexroad, Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Sgt. Brent Sixkiller, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Capt. Casey Turner, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Sgt. Katherine Young, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Retired Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine, Williamston, South Carolina
Retired Capt. Tim Bomke, Bainbridge Island, Washington
Retired Spc. Angela Euson, Jacksonville, Florida
Retired Spc. Brent Garlic, Atlanta, Georga
Retired Sgt. Sean Hook, Summerville, South Carolina
Retired Staff Sgt. Beth King, Deming, New Mexico
Retired Staff Sgt. Matthew Lammers, Fairmont, North Carolina
Retired Spc. Brandon Nielson, Olalla, Washington
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Olson, Spokane, Washington
Retired Staff Sgt. Joel Rodriguez, Tampa, Florida
Retired Sgt. Jonathan Weasner, New London, Ohio
Retired Capt. Dandy “Alex” Wilson, Alexandria, Virginia