Sailor Overcomes Much to Compete in Warrior Games
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2010 When Navy Seaman Judi Boyce toes the archer’s line at the inaugural Warrior Games next month, she intends to overcome her disabilities and set the tone for the next chapter of her life.
Navy Seaman Judi Boyce slices cherry tomatoes for meals April 8, 2010, at the Pentagon. Boyce, a culinary arts specialist for the Joint Staff, suffers from a rare condition that constrains blood flow to certain arteries in the brain. She's expected to participate in the inaugural Warrior Games slated May 10-14 in Colorado Springs, Colo., which will highlight disabled veterans in Paralympic-style competitions. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Boyce is no stranger to adversity. She grew up in foster care, and now is learning to live with a rare brain condition that caused her to have a stroke around Thanksgiving 2008.
Boyce said in an interview with American Forces Press Service that she is approaching the Warrior Games with a no-nonsense attitude.
Boyce also is eager to crush any doubt people may have about her abilities and in particular silence her harshest critic: herself.
“I still can’t do a lot of things without a doctor present, so a lot of these events are going to be a great opportunity to just go out and do them,” the 21-year-old New Jersey native said. “I am nervous, but I just need to prove to myself that I’m still capable.”
Along with archery, Boyce is set to compete in track and field and swimming events, she said. She’s one of 25 sailors and Coast Guardsmen who make up the Navy team participating in the games slated May 10-14 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The games will feature track and field, as well as swimming, cycling, marksmanship, and wheelchair basketball and wheelchair volleyball. Two hundred disabled veterans and wounded warriors from all branches of the military are expected to compete.
At first, Boyce was hesitant about taking part in the games, she said. Moyamoya disease, a condition that restricts blood flow to certain arteries in the brain, has left the culinary arts specialist with blurred vision, short-term memory loss and numbness throughout her body. She’s also prone to “mini-strokes,” she explained.
But when she learned archery would be part of the competition, memories of some of the happier times in her life came racing back. As a child, Boyce spent several summers at camp, where she took a liking to archery. As she became older, she started teaching archery to the younger kids, she said.
“Archery is the big thing I’m looking forward to at the Warrior Games,” she said. “I loved it at camp, growing up. It was such a blast.
“The [Warrior Games] is a good way to get back into the swing of things and still be competitive,” Boyce added, noting that she hasn’t been very physically active since being diagnosed with Moyamoya disease. “It’s also going to be fun, because we’re starting something new. It’s the first Warrior Games, and we’re the group that’s starting it off.”
The games will likely be Boyce’s last hoorah in the military. She expects to be medically retired from the Navy a few weeks after the games, something she’s not looking forward to, she said.
Learning to live with the condition has been difficult. She’s learned to channel her frustrations into cooking and other activities, but leaving the military is the last thing she ever wanted. She loves being a cook, and is grateful for the friends she has made. But the truth is, Boyce’s three years of Navy service has been one of the few constants in her life, she said.
Boyce’s parents were deemed negligent by the state when she was 7 years old, and she and her six siblings were placed in foster care. She was adopted at 14, but after high school graduation, she was pretty much kicked out of her home because the state child-care checks stopped, she said.
Boyce enlisted in the Navy shortly after, finally finding the family she longed for. Despite the hardships, she has managed to keep a positive outlook. She always seems to find the silver lining during stressful times, she said.
“Navy boot camp was easy, because of my childhood in foster care,” she said. “Foster care made me who I am, and I’m very happy with the kind of person I’ve grown into. Without those hard experiences, who knows where I’d be right now?”
Living with Moyamoya may be a new misfortune in her life, but it’s nothing but another hurdle, she said.
“There’s always going to be a reason to give up on life, but you just have to stay optimistic and ready to pick yourself up when you have to,” she said. “I’m a very strong-willed person, and my disabilities are not going to stop me. I’ve lived a lot of my life proving a lot of people wrong.”
Boyce is undergoing evaluations and occupational therapy in Bethesda, Md., at the National Naval Medical Center. Twice a week, she cooks at the Pentagon for the Joint Staff.