LONDON – The support of family helps to keep a servicemember grounded, whether serving in the military or competing in sports, the only active duty U.S. Marine in the 2012 Paralympic Games said September 3.
Marine Corps Cpl. Rene Renteria, a radar repairman by trade and assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif., is one of three active-duty servicemembers competing in the Paralympic Games. He credits his family with keeping him focused, especially during tough times.
“I have wife and a daughter,” he said. “[They're] who I'm here for. They help me keep my head up, with whatever goes on. [Sometimes] it’s a struggle – I guess it's just all mental.”
Renteria said his wife was able to travel to Great Britain, along with his sister, to watch the Paralympic Games, but his daughter is in the United States with his parents.
The U.S. Paralympic soccer team forward, a native of Sun Valley, Calif., said his four years of military service have helped him reach the Paralympics. He has served a deployment [to Afghanistan, and he played on the 2010 All-Marines soccer team.
The first two games here have not gone well for the U.S. team, with losses to Ukraine, 9-0, and to Brazil, 8-0. But Renteria still is proud of the team's efforts.
“Regardless of the score, we're going out there to compete,” he said. “We've got to push ourselves to be better than the last play we just did. We have to try to focus, and you've got to have your head up.” Great Britain is next up for the U.S. team September 4.
Renteria shared his thought process as he competes on the field and leads his team, trying to keep them as competitive as possible.
“You're trying to help the team,” he said. “You want to be able to support your team with whatever you do. I try to be one of the best. I try putting myself in the right position at the right time. It's exciting.”
The other Marines in his unit was very excited when they found out he would be competing in London, Renteria said. “[My unit was] more excited than I was coming here, just because I'm the first active from the Wounded Warrior [Battalion] to go to the Paralympics,” he added.
“It's an exciting, surreal moment. So I'm just waiting to see what [reaction] I go back to,” he said with a laugh.
Renteria said he was able to join the U.S. Paralympic soccer team through a sports medicine specialist at the Wounded Warrior Battalion who previously worked for the U.S. Olympic Committee and assisted him in contacting the team.
“My goal today was to go home with a medal,” Renteria said. “Just having a good experience and to win. I don't want to leave without a win.” He said he'll remain upbeat and “just keep my head up, and I know that things [will] always get better.”
Meanwhile, his teammate, Gavin Sibayan, a retired Army veteran and defender/midfielder for the team, reflected on the transition from being a servicemember to a Paralympic athlete.
“It's awesome to go from defending your country to competing for your country,” he said.