CHICAGO, July 5, 2017 —
For Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Rumulo Urtula, competing in the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games here is about showing his son, Jeffrey, 19, the meaning of perseverance.
“I want him to see all the events,” said Urtula, a Navy hospital corpsman stationed at Cherry Point, North Carolina. “He’s an athlete. He played baseball when he was young and then he stopped playing. He learned how to swim and got good at it and then he quit. I want him to watch the athletes here and see how they are overcoming the ordeals each of them has. They still persevere and keep pushing on without quitting. I don’t want him to quit when he loves something. I want him to just keep going until he gets it because I know he loves outdoor sports.”
Throughout the week, about 265 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command, United Kingdom and the Australian Defense Force are competing in shooting, archery, cycling, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.
So far, Urtula has competed in archery and the 100-meter and 200-meter track competitions and will compete in the air rifle category July 7. He made it into the finals in archery, but didn’t quite make it into the top eight. He said he’s looking forward to shooting, though he was hesitant at first with getting into the program.
Urtula has post-traumatic stress disorder from a combat deployment to Iraq in 2003 and multiple traumatic brain injuries from a deployment to Iraq from 2008 to 2009. He said for years, he fought with his wife, Shana, about his PTSD because she told him he had changed.
“We were having rough times and had been married for almost 10 years and throughout those times, she told me, ‘You’re not the same person anymore,’” he said. “Every time I deployed, it was getting worse. She told me she was going to divorce me if I didn’t get help so I sought help. It helped tremendously. If it wasn’t for my wife, I would’ve been a lot worse.”
He said a supervisor told him about the Warrior Games. At first, he volunteered, later deciding to compete. When they asked him to try air rifle and pistol, he was nervous because of what he experienced in Iraq.
“I wasn’t sure how I would react to it. I thought it was going to be a loud bang like a firefight, but it wasn’t,” he said. “I was like, ‘I can do this.’ I also got into archery. I enjoyed it. But mostly, I enjoyed watching all my teammates with different disabilities and injuries, how they adapted to the sports and got really good at them. I loved how they supported each other.”
Urtula said he appreciated how his teammates supported each other and taught him and the other first-timers how to participate in the sports.
“They were sincere about how to show you how to get better. They were very helpful and would tell me, ‘You’ve got this.’ They gave me advice, which was great. The camaraderie was great,” he said.
He said the camaraderie was what he missed most from the time when he was stationed with Marines. “When I was with the Marines, I had to earn their trust,” he said. “Once you earned their trust, they’ve got your back. … When I get that in the program, it’s great. It’s like my second family. If I can keep doing this every year, I would do it over and over again.”