Inspired Guardsman Competes in Warrior Games
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 14, 2010 An amputated left leg couldn’t keep Army Sgt. Kisha Makerney out of Iraq, and it certainly isn’t stopping her from giving her all at the inaugural Warrior Games here.
Army National Guardsman Sgt. Kisha Makerney, waits for the ball to come her way during a Warrior Games volleyball match May 11, 2010, at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
One of the only National Guardsmen on the Army team here, Makerney said she is inspired by the love she has for her country and living her childhood dream of being a soldier.
“Since I was a little-bitty kid, all I ever wanted to do was be in the military,” the Oklahoma National Guard soldier said with a smile. “It’s my favorite thing in life, and I’m going to stay in forever.”
That passion is what got her through her early days of recovery in 2005, and it’s one of the reasons she was chosen to participate in the Warrior Games. Makerney is competing in archery, marksmanship and sitting volleyball this week. She’s one of about 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans who were selected to compete in the Paralympic-type athletic events here at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Other events are wheelchair basketball, cycling, swimming and track and field.
The games are a joint venture of the Defense Department, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the USO, and are meant to inspire recovery through competition and adaptive sports.
“The Warrior Games are helping others to see that there are no limitations,” Makerney said. “You can do whatever you put your mind to, whatever you want, as long as you stay positive, keep a good attitude and really want it.”
However, staying positive isn’t as simple as it sounds, she acknowledged. The 25-year-old Army engineer recalled the accident that claimed her leg.
“When I wrecked my [motorcycle], I was lying on the ground, in a ditch,” she said. “My very first thought was that I was mad about my bike, but then almost immediately, my next thought was: ‘They’re going to kick me out.’”
It was difficult to come to terms with the possibility of being forced out of the military, she said, but she quickly learned that although recovery is an arduous process, it’s only what one makes of it.
“[Initial recovery] is bad, and, for a while, it gets worse,” she explained. “But if you work hard, and you believe in yourself, you will rise to the challenge and do anything you put your mind to. I don’t believe you should allow yourself to have limits.”
Makerney was determined not to let her military career end. At the time of the accident, she had been home from an Iraq deployment for only two months. Army green was still pumping fresh through her veins, and the thought of her unit deploying without her made her depressed, she said.
“There was no way they were going back [to Iraq] without me,” she said with a laugh. “[My fellow soldiers] were there for me when I was hurt, and I wanted to be there for them.”
Makerney got her wish and deployed with her unit again to Iraq for nine months in 2008. It was more special than she could have ever imagined, she said.
“Deploying again kind of played a big part in my recovery,” she explained. “In a way, when I stepped off the plane in [Baghdad International Airport], it healed me. It was one of the best moments of my life, because people told me I’d never do it again.”
Although the games here haven’t had the same sort of impact on her life, Makerney said, she believes they can for others. During her time here and her recovery at the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, she said, she has met troops who are as passionate about sports and athletics as she is about being a soldier.
“The Warrior Games are great in giving [wounded warriors] something new to go after and succeed in,” she said. “It’s cool for people who’ve been hurt and think their lives are over, and then all of the sudden they’re competing.
“The bonds we have with our fellow servicemembers and our injuries and now in competition – it brings the life back into us,” she continued. “Everybody goes through a hard time when they get hurt, but to be passionate about something and to have each other makes it tons better.”