WASHINGTON -- Several Navy wounded warrior athletes have been chosen to represent the U.S. at the 2014 Paralympics and the 2013 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships. In May, retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tyler Burdick was named a member of the 2013-14 U.S. Paralympics Snowboard National Team, which is the first national team in the sport. In June, retired Navy Master-at-Arms Seaman Steven Hancock and retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Max Rohn were selected to compete in track and field at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships July 19-28 in Lyon, France. "We are immeasurably proud of our athletes and their incredible achievements," said Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) - Safe Harbor director Capt. Steve Hall. "Our wounded warriors are wonderful representatives for our country. In addition to their phenomenal athletic skills, they have demonstrated determination, resiliency and heart throughout their military careers and personal journeys towards recovery."
NWW - the Navy's support program for seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen - sponsors Team Navy at the annual Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo. All three athletes are enrolled in the program and previously have competed on behalf of Team Navy. Burdick, a combat-wounded veteran, has been snowboarding for most of his life. He was first introduced to adaptive snowboarding last year, when he began volunteering for the National Ability Center's ski program in Park City, Utah. He competed in the NorAm National Cup in January, where he took ninth place. He followed that achievement with a second-place finish at the National Championships in July. Burdick was wounded in Afghanistan July 2010 when his armored vehicle struck a roadside bomb, which resulted in serious injuries to both of his feet. After undergoing multiple limb-salvage efforts, Burdick resigned himself to a future as an amputee. In October 2011, however, he was fitted with new, cutting-edge braces - Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthoses - that redefined his abilities and allowed him to keep his limbs. Becoming part of the Paralympic team was the realization of a lifelong dream. "I used to swim when I was younger, and I always hoped that one day I might go to the Olympics," said Burdick. "I'm so excited. It hasn't really even hit me yet. I wasn't planning for this at all, but snowboarding is a sport I am really passionate about." Hancock - an open water scuba instructor who works with military veterans - also began seriously training a year ago in seated shot put and discus. Hancock seized gold in both events at the Warrior Games in May and earned top honors in both sports at the recent University of Central Oklahoma Endeavor Games. Hancock, who hails from Pueblo, Colo., was injured while deployed in 2009. He suffers from lower-body paralysis and uses a wheelchair. Upon learning that he would compete at the World Championships, he began lifting weights six days a week and throwing three days a week, focusing on building strength and improving his form. "I'm pumped up and a little nervous [about the upcoming competition]. This is my first time competing against athletes from other countries," said Hancock. "But I am going to turn that nervousness into pushing hard and training. Making it to this level is a dream come true." After making his mark at the World Championships, Hancock hopes to contend for a spot on the 2016 U.S. Paralympic track and field team. He works regularly with Team Navy coach Kent Pagel to improve his skills. "From watching and analyzing footage of my competitions, to fitting me with a new chair, Coach Pagel is helping me every step of the way," he said. Rohn, a below-the-knee amputee, was wounded in Iraq in 2009 when his Humvee was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. A native of Longmont, Colo., he is a three-time member of Team Navy who has taken home several Warrior Games medals. Rohn will compete in discus at the World Championships.
NWW has a robust adaptive athletics program, which has positive and lasting effects on the physical and emotional well-being of wounded warriors. These athletes typically enjoy greater self-esteem, lower stress levels and fewer secondary medical conditions.