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Paralympian Gold, Silver Medalist Returns to Active Duty

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2004 – Not only did Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Casey Tibbs do what he said he would do, he did it in grand style.

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Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Casey Tibbs, left, poses for pictures with two fellow medal winners at the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. Tibbs, the first active-duty servicemember to compete in the Paralympics, medaled in the pentathlon and the 4x100-meter relay. Courtesy photo
  

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In the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece, Tibbs and his team, cheered by his wife, Robyn, who is also in the Navy, ran to a gold medal in the 4x100- meter relay. Tibbs also won a silver medal in the pentathlon. Tibbs is the first active-duty Paralympian.

The run for his medals began on March 5, 2001. Tibbs was in a motorcycle accident that resulted in the loss of his right leg below the knee. At the time, he was on active duty in the Navy.

Because of his training in a critical skill -- Tibbs graduated with honors from the Defense Language Institute -- he was offered, and took, the option of remaining on active duty.

After four months recuperation, Tibbs read an article about the Paralympics that set him on the road to Athens. Tibbs trained a little over a year for the Games. And once the Paralympic team was announced on June 4, he said, the Navy gave him all the time he needed to train.

With the 2004 Paralympic Games concluded, Tibbs is now back to his usual duties as a cryptology technician at Naval Security Group Activity Medina, in San Antonio. And, he said, he gets along just fine.

"I am an everyday sailor," he said. "I participate in every activity that every other shipmate does."

Tibbs is proof that a disability doesn't automatically equal disabled. He said he has had no difficulties since returning to active duty after the motorcycle accident, nor has the Navy made any special accommodations to allow him to do his job.

Recently, the military has been making a push to retain more disabled servicemembers on active-duty status.

"I think (the effort) is great. Just because someone has a permanent injury while on active duty shouldn't mean that the military should boot them out of the service," Tibbs said. "I know a lot of disabled people from the Paralympics that would kill to be in the military and serve their country."

Tibbs is speaking from experience when he tells servicemembers who have lost a limb while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan that their life is just beginning. "They can either overcome what they are faced with or sit around and feel sorry for themselves," he said. "You decide how you are going to live with your injury.

"Not one day have I felt sorry for what has happened to me. I keep setting goals for myself and seeing how I can obtain them," he said, adding that his current goal is to become an officer.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Petty Officer 2nd Class Casey Tibbs, third from the left on the center podium, stands with the three other members of the men's 4x100-meter relay team. The team won the gold medal with a time of 43:90 on Sept. 26 in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. Tibbs, the first active-duty servicemember to compete in the Paralympics, also won a silver medal in the pentathlon. Courtesy photo   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Petty Officer 2nd Class Casey Tibbs sports the silver medal he won in the pentathlon on Sept. 22. Tibbs is the first active-duty servicemember to compete in the Paralympics. He also won a gold medal as part of the men's 4x100-meter relay team in the Games in Athens, Greece. Courtesy photo   
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