ARLINGTON, Va. | “My girls have seen me in this chair pretty much their whole life because of my spinal cord injury. So competing at these games is about letting them see success in its truest form,” said U.S. Army retired Sgt. Charles “Buddy” Mays.
Mays’ life changed forever on September 1, 2005 while on a deployment to Iraq. He was involved in an explosion when a bomb detonated under his Humvee [which was activated by a cell phone].
“I was thrown 60 feet from the vehicle and I knew immediately I was paralyzed,” Mays said. At that point it wasn’t about me however, I lost two friends in the explosion.”
Mays describes the two years after his injury as being “very dark” while he recovered at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
“My wife and kids were there for support, but I didn’t want to come out of my room for two years,” he said.
After spending so much time in his room, Mays finally got out and was introduced to adaptive sports.
“I actually tried multiple disabled sports and at first I was just going through the emotions,” the Georgia native said, then one day he had an epiphany.
“I realized I had two choices: I can be “Buddy” in the chair or I can live and I chose the latter. I tried tennis and I fell in love with it thanks to support from professional tennis player and former two-time U.S. Paralympic athlete Karin Korb,” Mays said. “Adaptive sports saved my life. The sky is the limit. I love competing now and I can beat my friend and fellow competitor [retired U.S. Army Maj.] Dr. Lisa Maddox. I wear her out,” he laughed.
Both Mays and Maddox joined more than 70 wounded ill and injured active-duty Soldiers and Army veteran athletes at the 2018 Army Trials in Fort Bliss, Texas.
Mays walked away with gold medals in swimming (50-meter back stroke), shot put, discus, one minute rowing and a silver medal in the four minute rowing event. However for him, competing at Army Trials was about more than medals.
“I want my children to know they can get through life’s major setbacks and still come out on top. There’s absolutely no reason my kids can’t succeed when life throws bad situations at them.”