Adaptive Sports, Warrior Games Bring Families Together
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May. 13, 2010 Sharada Akin had her hands full courtside here yesterday as she entertained her 16-month-old daughter, Trinity. Her cheerful, blue-eyed little darling scampered back and forth around the bleachers, laughing and playing with a seemingly endless amount of energy.
Stephnie Rose, bottom center, cheers on her husband, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Rose, during a volleyball match at the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 11, 2010. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
So keeping up with her husband’s archery match wasn’t much of an option, Akin said, but she added that the tournament’s outcome wasn’t all that important. The fact that Army Cpl. Travis Akin can enjoy life again is all she really needs to know.
“The most important thing for our family is that we’re happy, healthy and together,” Akin said. “And Travis feeling useful again and worth something after being injured in Iraq is a big part of that.”
Travis suffers from severe spinal injuries and post-traumatic stress caused by a 2006 roadside-bomb attack in Iraq. He’s one of about 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans competing in Paralympic athletic events at the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here.
Travis’s injuries took him out of the fight and prevented him from doing a lot of things he’d enjoyed, such as playing the way he used to with his kids, his wife explained. The initial recovery phase was daunting for the entire family, she added.
“It’s frustrating when there’s nothing you can do, and you know he’s in pain and wants to do more, but just can’t,” Akin said. “We have four kids, and our sons like to play rough, but can’t with their dad any more. They want to know why Daddy can’t roughhouse, and all you can tell them is because Daddy’s hurt.”
But, like many troops and their families who have suffered life-changing disabilities, Travis, who’s stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, has discovered adaptive sports as a way to persevere. He learned several activities that he never thought he would do, but mostly he was drawn to hunting, which is how he was introduced to a compound bow.
Hunting gives her husband an outlet to focus his energy, as well as a means to relax when stress builds up, Akin said. Travis has come a long way since he was first injured, she added.
“I’m certainly proud of him,” she said. “He’s come a long way with archery, with himself. He’s just accomplished so much in his lifetime. I just want to support him any way we can. That’s why I’m here.”
Wayne Luttmer and his wife, Cathy, made the trip here from north Texas to show support for their son, Army Sgt. Jeremiah Luttmer, who’s competing in archery and marksmanship. Luttmer described his son as a “man with a lot of fight, willpower and pride.”
Jeremiah was deployed to Iraq in 2008 when a mortar round shattered his right ankle, Luttmer said of his son’s injury.
“It was tough on his mother and I,” the father said. “It’s not easy to see your son hurt that badly in such a violent way.”
Yet, like the Akin family, the Luttmers drew strength from their wounded warrior’s ability to overcome his disability and continue on with his life.
“Shooting and things like the Warrior Games have gone a long way to his recovery,” Luttmer said. “It’s done great things for us, and it’s a great way for [wounded warriors] to get motivated again.”
Luttmer added that he’s also proud of all the wounded warriors competing this week. The games have the potential to make an impact on a lot of families and wounded warriors’ lives, he said.
“I love seeing all of the services here together competing against each other,” he said. “I’m enjoying the heck out of seeing these troops, who’ve been through so much, doing so well here. It makes me very proud to be a father of a soldier.”
The Warrior Games are a joint venture of the Defense Department, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the USO to promote the positive impact adaptive sports can have on veterans dealing with disabilities.