WASHINGTON — An Army physician assistant who turned his traumatic experience into triumph when he won medals at the Warrior Games last year will attempt to repeat that success with the U.S. Armed Forces team at this year’s Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, May 8-12.
Army 1st Lt. Chris Parks, assigned to the Fort Hood Warrior Transition Unit in Texas, went to bed in his home Feb. 28, 2014, and woke up April 15 without his right leg. He had been in a six-week coma, and had no memory of having had a flesh-eating bacterial infection. Despite that experience, he remains positive and makes the most of his life.
"I woke up relatively positive, because with necrotizing fasciitis, 81 percent of the people who get it die," he said. "According to an article I read in August of 2014, four out of the five cases in the state of Texas last year died. I was the only one who lived."
Family Aided Adjustment
Parks said he couldn't have adjusted to his injury and become the athlete he is today if it hadn't been for his family: his wife, Heather; his son, Ryan, 17; and his daughter, Rebecca, 19.
"My family has been so amazing with their support and encouragement," Parks said. "They are my backbone. I truly wouldn't be here without them."
Parks said his daughter's college finals are the same week as the Invictus Games, so she won't be able to attend, but his wife and son will be in the stands cheering him on as he competes in swimming and shot put.
"I'm extremely proud of my husband and super-happy he has the opportunity to be part of such an exciting competition," Heather Parks said. "I'm truly grateful to all the people out there who are supporting our wounded warriors. It's amazing to be a part of something like this, and we are honored."
Making the Team
Parks earned a gold medal in seated volleyball and a silver medal in the seated shot put in the adaptive sports category at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games. He said he's excited to represent the U.S. Armed Forces team at the upcoming Invictus Games.
"I'm deeply honored to represent Team Army and Team America," he said. "When I lost my leg two years ago, I never imagined being in such a wonderful place with such amazing people."
The soldier said he's been spending a lot of time in the pool and lifting weights to prepare for the competition. "There are some really amazing athletes who will be competing," he said. "I can only do my best and hope it comes out well."
Parks said the importance of the Invictus Games can't be overstated. "Prince Harry has done an amazing thing by creating this competition," he said. "It brings wounded warriors together from all different countries to bond, grow and to achieve greatness. The camaraderie is amazing.
"These competitions allow us to bring out the inner warrior that has lain dormant in us since our injuries," he continued. "It may sound corny, but the lion inside all of us is awoken and ready to roar. We may not be the people we were before our injury or illness, but we are still wonderful people. We are resilient beyond what most people realize, and though we struggle at times, we will persevere and conquer all the obstacles that come before us."
During the Invictus Games, more than 500 disabled athletes from 15 nations will compete in 10 sporting events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World as they are cheered on by thousands of family members, friends and spectators.