BETHESDA, Md. -- Two Soldiers assigned to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) and Fort Meade (Md.) Warrior Transition Units (WTU) will compete in the 2013 Warrior Games, beginning Saturday until May 16, at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Master Sgt. Rhoden Galloway (left), Warrior Transition Unit, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Sgt. Sean Karpf, Warrior Transition Unit, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., wait to start the 50-meter freestyle swim trial at the 2013 Warrior Games Army Cycling and Swimming Assessment and Selection Clinic. The clinic was conducted Jan. 7-12 at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Patrick Cubel)
In his Warrior Games debut, Army Sgt. Sean Karpf is eyeing gold in the pool and on the track, while Army Capt. Lacey Hamilton is returning to the Games looking to do even better than she did in 2012 when she cycled her way to a bronze medal in women’s cycling and earned another bronze in the women’s 200-meter sprint. This year, she will again compete in cycling as well as track and field.
“I hope to achieve a greater reward than the one obtained during my participation in the previous Warrior Games,” said Hamilton, who received care at WRNMMC and is assigned to the WTU at Fort Meade Md. “This means that I will return home with three gold medals and a lifetime of knowledge that I have learned from fellow warriors, coaches and supporters alike,” the captain added.
Karpf, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., has excelled at competing in adaptive sports and was on the sled hockey team, which earned the USA Hockey Sled Classic B Division championship in November in Buffalo, N.Y. He also participated in a four-day bike ride with other wounded warriors in April, receiving a presidential send-off at the White House by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
Adaptive sports “has given me a since of belonging to a team again,” said Karpf, injured in June 2012 by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. The explosion claimed his left leg below the knee. He’s also training to compete in a triathlon, and recently participated in an adaptive lacrosse clinic at Walter Reed Bethesda.
“I have realized that I need to push myself and not feel sorry for myself. Losing a leg changes your life, but if I can stay busy, stay active … it helps. It’s like therapy for me,” Karpf explained.
He added that participating in adaptive reconditioning activities and sports helped him regain a sense of confidence and perspective as he learned to walk again.
Karpf said he’s proud of his career and helping other young service members develop into leaders on and off the playing fields. He encourages other wounded warriors to participate in adaptive sports because it has helped in his recovery, both physically and mentally. He also looks forward to mentoring other wounded warriors in his internship with the physical therapy department at Walter Reed Bethesda.
The noncommissioned officer said in addition to bringing back gold at the Warriors Games, he hopes to earn a spot on the Army’s World Class Athlete Program to train as a hopeful for the U.S. Paralympic swim team.
Hamilton, a native of New Castle, Del., has high goals for herself too, both on and off the sport field. She explained that since January, she has been in “intense training” which has included running four days, cycling three days a week, and throwing the discus twice a week.
Off the field, the Army captain has set her sights on earning either a jurist doctorate degree, or an academic doctorate degree in domestic policy or diplomatic studies.
An intelligence officer, Hamilton was injured during her deployment to Afghanistan. “I was injured in Western Afghanistan in December 2010 when my vehicle was involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident with a local Afghan truck driver. My vehicle rolled off the road and I was ejected from the vehicle.”
Despite sustaining a fractured vertebra; right hand trauma; bone, tendon and nerve damage; as well as moderate traumatic brain injury, Hamilton described her deployment in Afghanistan as rewarding. There, she assisted Afghan women with medical services and education.
“I am most proud of the impact that I made with the women in the Sanowghan Village, Zerekoh Valley, Afghanistan,” she said. “Given the opportunity, I would do it all over again.”
Although her rehabilitation, which began at Walter Reed Bethesda, has been challenging, Hamilton explained she has earned a master’s degree, and competed in the Army Ten-Miler and Baltimore half-marathon.
“I was determined to not let my injury get in the way of living life,” said the captain. “I have learned that I am a much stronger-willed person than I ever imagined.
“I became interested in competing in the Warrior Games after countless cadre members from the Fort Meade WTU motivated me to try out for the 2012 Warrior Games,” Hamilton explained. “The encouragement that I received from the Warrior Transition Unit during that time aided in my healing process and boasted my confidence.”
In its fourth year, more than 200 athletes from all branches of the military qualified to compete at the 2013 Warrior Games, May 11-16. The Paralympic-style competition for wounded, ill and injured service members allows athletes to compete for gold medals in shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track and field and wheelchair basketball.
The Warrior Games showcase the resilient spirit of wounded, ill and injured service members from all branches of the military who have overcome significant physical and behavioral health challenges, according to its organizers.
“I mostly look forward to seeing the love and support that the American citizens, family members and fellow warriors show during such a monumental event,” Hamilton added. “The Warrior Games seem to unite the public and remind them of the sacrifices that each warrior has offered for the freedom of American Citizens. It was an honor to be selected as one of the heroes that made the Army team and I intend to make my service proud when I medal in each of my events,” she added.
Bernard S. Little WRNMMC Journal staff writer