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WTB Soldier wins gold at Warrior Games

Sergeant finishes with gold, silver in two field events during the annual DOD Warrior Games competition

Published: 11:42AM June 13th, 2013
WTB Soldier wins gold at Warrior Games

Victor J. Ayala

WTB Soldier Sgt. Joshua Andrew won gold in the men’s shot put and silver in discus during the recent Warrior Games competition in Colorado Springs, Colo.

After months of intense training, Sgt. Joshua Andrew came away from the Department of Defense’s Fourth Annual Warrior Games in May with a gold medal for shot put and a silver medal for discus.

His gold-medal shot put traveled 47 feet, seven feet beyond the second-place throw. His silver-medal discus toss was 114 feet.

Andrew was the only Soldier from the Warrior Transition Battalion to go to the 2013 games in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Army’s other discus thrower, retired Sgt. Shawn Hook, took the gold.

The Warrior Games allowed ill, injured or wounded service members and veterans to compete in adaptive sports events.

As a weapons squad leader in Afghanistan, Andrew experienced four knee dislocations while on missions that were so strenuous, he and his Soldiers adopted a fatalistic mindset.

“Yeah, it’s okay to be scared because we’re probably going to die,” Andrew recalled as his unit’s collective attitude.

Andrew’s right tibia was also fractured four months before his last deployment to Afghanistan, but he still expected himself to carry the largest load.

“My Soldiers called me ’Mama Bear.’ A mama bear’s got to protect her cubs,” Andrew said.

His injuries were exacerbated during the 21 months he spent in Iraq and Afghanistan and five years of military service. After Andrew went on rest-and-recuperation leave, he suffered another “blowout” after he returned. He was put on light duty, which led him to the Warrior Transition Board in May while in the process of relearning how to walk. He is currently undergoing the medical evaluation board process.

Andrew used the Warrior Games to rationalize the pain he experiences from his injuries — when athletes train hard, they are naturally sore. His habit of pushing himself hard lent itself well to the competition.

“You never volunteer to give up something you should have. If anything you should volunteer to carry a little extra,” Andrew said. In this case, the extra therapy, training and soreness made him feel normal. Andrew said, “I used to tell to my mother-in-law, God put me on this Earth to struggle ... because I can handle it.”

Andrew heard about the Warrior Games during his routine formations and decided he needed to do something physical. In October 2012, he started training with the hope of making the Army’s team for the games. After his first Warrior Games training camp in January, Andrew was putting the shot put 46 feet. That’s when he began his intensive training with Coach Russ Vincent, who held the University of Washington’s record for more than 20 years.

By May, Andrew was launching shot puts farther than 60 feet. The shot put record in Andrew’s category of injury is 53 feet, 5 inches. Andrew’s best throw is 68 feet.

The Warrior Games are an Olympic-like series of events ranging from seated volleyball to track and field. The events have been adapted to reduce stress and increase function and mobility. The winners are given medals and each athlete represents their respective branch of the military. Some competitors, like Andrew, have a chance to continue their athletics pursuits after the Warrior Games.

“The Warrior Games, for me, was a milestone ... It was instrumental in keeping my mind positive,” he said.

Andrew has trained with coaches like Vincent and others who are legends in their respective fields. He made a point to thank his former company commander, Capt. Kristina Carney, platoon sergeant Sgt. 1st Class Lisa Ham, and the physical therapist Lou McGranaghan for their support.

“(My goal) is to go to Oklahoma and be categorized for the Paralympics from there ... (I’ll) go to Rio de Janero, Brazil, in 2016 and represent the U.S. on the U.S. Paralympics team and try to win another gold medal or maybe set a world record,” Andrew said. “Without setting realistic, obtainable goals — and to me those are realistic — you can’t move forward.”