EL PASO, Texas -- With constant smiles and yells of enthusiasm, one Soldier said, while his goal is to make the Army team for the Department of Defense's 2015 Warrior Games, he ultimately enjoyed just being able to set personal records.
From the first day to the last, Sgt. 1st Class Kevin "Smiley" Hawkins cheered on his fellow competitors throughout the Army Trials on Fort Bliss, Texas, March 29 to April 2. He got the crowds chanting "Go Army" and other words of inspiration.
"He was such an inspiration to us all; no matter what the sport or who the athlete was, he was everyone's biggest fan and supporter," said Sgt. Jodie Lemons, his sitting volleyball teammate. "He's all about the team."
The final selections for the Army team that will compete during the DoD Warrior Games should be announced later this month. The games will be held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, June 19-28. Wounded, ill and injured Service members, veterans from the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard will compete, as well as athletes from Special Operations Command, and a team from the British military. They will compete in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball events.
Hawkins, who serves at the Fort Leonard Wood Warrior Transition Unit in Missouri, served in the Marine Corps for eight years, in the Army National Guard for 10 years and the Army Reserve for seven years. He joined the military in 1987.
"I joined to serve my country," he said.
Hawkins competed in air rifle; the men's 100-meter, 200-meter run and 4X100 relay in track and field; wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. He said he did not receive a medal but he did achieve a personal record.
"I did better than I did last time. I didn't win, but I did complete the races, and it felt great," he said with a smile. "I haven't run track in probably over 20 years. To get back out there after so many years and actually finish a race, it was a great accomplishment."
Hawkins has a tear in his right shoulder, injuries to both of his elbows and a back injury due to his time in service and a combat deployment inAfghanistan in 2013. He said adaptive sports are helping him overcome his injuries.
"I was introduced to adaptive sports at Fort Leonard Wood about a year ago, and they are motivating me to be competitive again," he said. "Once you get injured, you think you can't do the same things you did prior to the injury. Adaptive sports have shown me that you can alter the way you move to compete in your events and this has motivated me in the military and outside the military with my family. I even play sitting volleyball with my family."
Hawkins encourages anyone, who is still struggling with recovery, to consider adaptive sports and to be patient with their efforts.
"Don't give up because there is definitely a light at the end of that tunnel," he said. "You might not see it right then and there but if you give up, you lessen your chances of seeing that light. If you keep pushing forward and going forward, you're eventually going to come to that light. Don't stop. You might feel you want to stop, but as somebody told me, 'As long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you're moving in the right direction.' If you start moving backward, you start moving away from the goal."
Hawkins said he feels the Army Trials and DoD Warrior Games are important because of the teamwork they bring.
"It brings us together and shows that we are still an Army of one," he said. "We still have that same goal of teamwork and accomplishment, and it shows the rest of the world that the Army doesn't leave any Soldier behind. We strive to be competitive and achieve to complete the mission. We come together, we compete, we have fun; and we motivate each other and help each other. It's been an honor and a privilege."