ARLINGTON, Va. — Being a combat medic takes serious dedication and courage. Sergeant First Class James Shields found out the depth of his Army career choice in 2007 in the middle of the night on a mission to pick up Marines who he thought were critical patients.
Sadly, when they arrived, the Marines were killed in action and the mission to bring them home was now paramount in Shields mind — no matter what.
“In trying to walk with the team from the casualty point back to the helicopter, which was 200 meters away,” Shields said. “I had to cross an irrigation ditch that was newly cut and walls weren’t fortified. Every time we walked across it carrying Marines, it would (tweak) my back, and now it’s problematic. I’ve continued to fly medical evacuations and get the job done, but now it’s bad enough that I can’t do it anymore.”
The Silver Springs, Md., future nurse incurred nerve impingement in his back and broken L4 and L5 vertebrates.
He pushes through the pain, recognizing the value of the Warrior Transition Units.
“Adaptive sports can be a life-saver,” he said. “Cycling is my main thing. It helps me forget about what actually hurts.”
Shields recovered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Warrior Transition Battalion, where he plans to submit his retirement package in July.
According to Shields, he is not done being a Soldier. He earned a spot on Team Army to participate in the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games, scheduled to be hosted at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in June. He also hopes to continue on to the Invictus Games in Sydney in October.
Shields wants to win gold medals for the Army and for his country.
“It would make me feel as if my career was well spent, and it would give me a way to separate from the Army while winning gold medals — a feat that I will be proud of,” he said.
Shields said pain can be both physical and psychological.
“I’d recommend any wounded, ill (or) injured Soldier get out there and find something they’re interested in no matter the sport or activity,” he said. “Just seek it out, find out whatever it takes to do it and put everything you have into it, because it can help you come back and out of those dark places.”