Former Medic Participates in Warrior Games
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 13, 2010 As a former firefighter, emergency medical technician and Air Force aeromedical evacuation airman, retired Staff Sgt. Ricky Tackett dedicated his life to taking care of others.
Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Ricky Tackett, a member of the Air Force’s sitting volleyball team that’s competing at the Warrior Games, takes a break during the match against Army at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 12, 2010. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
As a member of the Air Force team participating in the inaugural Warrior Games, people -- his teammates, in particular -- continue to be his No. 1 priority.
“I’m a team player, so I want to make sure taking care of our folks is No. 1,” Tackett said. “Even though we are here competing, we are here because we have limitations and mobility issues. We all have a responsibility to take care of each other and watch out for each other’s limitations.”
The Warrior Games are part of an effort to inspire recovery, capitalize on physical fitness and promote new opportunities for growth and achievement. Wounded, ill and injured athletes from all services are competing in shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus and shot put.
Tackett, an injured airman who also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, came to the games ready to compete in the 100-meter free sprint, shot put, prone rifle marksmanship and sitting volleyball. However, due to a training injury, a stress fracture in his leg, Tackett will compete only on the volleyball squad.
“I’m not going to quit, and they can’t make me,” he said. “I’ve got to play, because sitting volleyball is my only chance to do well for my team.”
Tackett said being chosen as a member of the Air Force team is a great responsibility and an honor. The Air Force head coach, Cami Stock, said Tackett has overcome a lot with his injury and still is “bringing it” for his teammates.
“He’s still out on the court doing everything for the team he possibly can,” she said about his sitting volleyball performance. “He likes to be part of the team. I think it’s one of the most important parts of it for him.”
For Tackett, the results of the competition are secondary. “It’s been a great bonding experience to meet people from all different backgrounds with different injuries and illnesses,” he said. “I’m not here to win any medals. I’m here to participate and have a great time.”
While in the Air Force, Tackett was responsible for the aeromedical evacuation of wounded warriors out of combat areas and back to the United States. After an injury and illness, he said, he had to re-evaluate his position as a medical aircrew member.
“I wanted to continue to fly, but at some point you have to look and reflect seriously on yourself and ask, ‘Am I the best person in this position?’” he said. “As aircrew, my mission is to provide the best medical care I possibly can to someone. I had to evaluate if my injury would put my aircrew or the patient in jeopardy. I realized I needed to take two steps back and be evaluated [by medical professionals]. I had to step out of [aeromedical evacuation].”
After medical retirement, Tackett continues to dedicate his life to the medical career field and stays active by teaching emergency medical technicians and American Red Cross courses. Along with sharing his medical knowledge, he also shares what he knows about dealing with the effects of PTSD.
“It’s still new to me, and I’m trying to understand what I’m going through,” Tackett said, noting that his wife, a nurse, has helped him with his disorder. “Help, counseling and meeting other veterans so that you are not alone, is key. A lot of people won’t seek help because they are afraid of that social stigma [of mental illness] and isolate themselves.
“You really have to be a warrior and stay focused and get out there and fight those social stigmas and say, ‘Hi, I’m a regular person. Like you, I just have some sensitivity to some subjects or other surroundings,’” he added.
Tackett said the Warrior Games environment helps him with his PTSD because he’s in a community of people who understand what he has been through.
“To be in a community of veterans and other folks that understand exactly what [I’ve] been through, and [being] able to talk to them and work things out -- it’s a whole other level of comfort,” he said.
Tackett said it is really important to make everyone feel comfortable in their environment and to make his teammates feel part of the Air Force team.
“The Air Force family is really close, and they have taken excellent care of us,” he said. “I think this is another excellent example of taking care of our wounded warriors. We are all winners.”