Fort Bragg is celebrating the strength and resilience of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers this November as part of Warrior Care Month.
The month-long event highlights the programs designed to help Soldiers in transition as they heal and prepare to either return to duty or transition to a civilian career.
Last week’s theme focused on the adaptive reconditioning program, with Soldiers in transition, Warrior Transition Battalion cadre and other members of the community coming together on the basketball court to play in a wheelchair basketball tournament, Nov. 9.
Lt. Col. Phillip Brown, commander, WTB, who also played in the tournament, said that wheelchair basketball and other adaptive sports like sled hockey, cycling, archery, air rifle and kayaking, provide not only a physical outlet for Soldiers, but also allow them to focus on what they are able to do rather than what they can’t do.
“We take things that Soldiers can do and focus on that for a pathway to healing,” said Brown.
Robyn Womac, the adaptive sports site coordinator at the WTB, helped plan the tournament and runs the day-to-day operations of the Adaptive Sports Program. She said that adaptive sports give Soldiers of different abilities the opportunity to play and compete.
“Adaptive sports are exactly that — adaptive,” she said. “No matter what your abilities are, we’re able to adapt the sport and find a way to allow Soldiers in transition to participate, often allowing them to play or do something that they haven’t tried before.”
Sgt. 1st Class Lucio Gaytan, a Soldier assigned to the WTB, said that adaptive sports have really helped him on his path to healing. Gaytan suffers from back injuries and discovered adaptive cycling as a way to reinvigorate his competitive nature and as a form of exercise. At the recent regional Warrior Games at Fort Benning, Georgia, he placed first in the hand cycling event.
His participation in the wheelchair basketball tournament was only the third time he’s played the sport, and he said that playing basketball in a wheelchair gives him a completely different perception of his skills and abilities on the court. This was evidenced by his celebratory shout when he finally made a basket at the end of the first game of the tournament.
“It’s hard to do,” Gaytan said.
Womac said that while it’s hard to get used to playing basketball in a wheelchair, anyone can do it and often they have bystanders jump in on their regular games at Ritz-Epps Physical Fitness Center.
“We’re here every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. and we’ll often have other Soldiers watching us play,” she said. “It’s great when they take our offer to sit down and join in on a game. It’s a great way for everyone to come together and just play as team no matter what they’re facing.”