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Former Tactical Air Controller Earns Invictus Games Medals in Honor of Father

Sept. 27, 2017 | BY Shannon Collins , DOD News
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Though Patrick Roberts has earned more than 40 medals over the years while competing at the Department of Defense Warrior Games, the medals he earns at this year’s Invictus Games here will mean more, he said, because they are dedicated to his twin brother, Tim Roberts, and his late father, Jim Roberts.

Patrick Roberts, a medically retired Air Force technical sergeant, competes in the men's 100-meter dash for Team Socom, the U.S. Special Operations Command Invictus Games team, at York-Lions Stadium in Toronto, Sept. 25, 2017. DoD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Cedric R. Haller II
Patrick Roberts, a medically retired Air Force technical sergeant, competes in the men's 100-meter dash for Team Socom, the U.S. Special Operations Command Invictus Games team, at York-Lions Stadium in Toronto, Sept. 25, 2017. DoD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Cedric R. Haller II
Patrick Roberts, a medically retired Air Force technical sergeant, competes in the men's 100-meter dash for Team Socom, the U.S. Special Operations Command Invictus Games team, at York-Lions Stadium in Toronto, Sept. 25, 2017. DoD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Cedric R. Haller II
Invictus Games
Patrick Roberts, a medically retired Air Force technical sergeant, competes in the men's 100-meter dash for Team Socom, the U.S. Special Operations Command Invictus Games team, at York-Lions Stadium in Toronto, Sept. 25, 2017. DoD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Cedric R. Haller II
Photo By: DoD
VIRIN: 170925-D-TF269-1837

Around the time Roberts was medically retired from the Air Force as a technical sergeant in 2008, his brother drowned. Roberts had served 16 years as a tactical air controller, calling in close air support missions for the Army on Special Forces missions in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan, he sustained multiple injuries during combat operations. After 18 surgeries, he medically retired. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.

Roberts’ father, who was a major influence in his life, passed away a little over a month ago. “My dad, I love him. He definitely inspired me and my twin brother. He pushed us since we were five years old. He was very big into sports, mostly wrestling,” Roberts said with emotion. “You’re going to win no matter what. I’m trying my hardest. You always push as hard as you can but it’s a special effort for him.”

He said his father was a four-time state wrestling champion and a national champion. His grandfather wrestled in the Olympics.

Roberts earned a bronze medal in his disability category in the men’s 100-meter and 200-meter at track and field Sept. 24 at the York-Lions Stadium. He competes this week in track and field, swimming and seated volleyball.

“This is my first Invictus ever, and I’m excited,” he said. “I’m going to be 45 [years old] this year but it’s still fun to come out and beat some of these young kids. I’m going to go back home, work harder, lose some weight and try out for Team Socom for the Warrior Games and for the next Invictus Games.”

More than 550 wounded, ill and injured service members from 17 nations compete in 12 sporting events including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball Sept. 23-30 as they are cheered on by thousands of family members, friends and spectators in the Distillery District here.

Road to Recovery

The road to Invictus was a journey, he said. “Even though I never wanted to join, I loved the military. Once you’re in a career field like that, it’s like a brotherhood; it’s your life,” he said. Roberts said as he transitioning out of the military and dealing with the loss of his brother and his fellow comrades, he was also dealing with the pain of his injuries.

“They gave me a lot of pain meds. It was horrible, and I was in a bad place,” he said. “They were like, you’re not going to walk again. I was in a wheelchair. I told them, ‘No, I’m going to walk again. I’m going to run. I’m going to quit the meds.’”

He checked himself into a rehab facility and worked his way off of the pain medication. “If I hadn’t gone to the rehab facility, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

Adaptive Sports

Roberts said getting out and meeting up with other veterans who had similar backgrounds helps, as well as finding adaptive sports in local areas. “Life can suck but you can manage it better by getting with other vets who have been through what you’ve been through or who you can relate to,” he said. “I try to get out there and help people.”

Roberts speaks to police departments and has been a speaker at the FBI Academy. “I tell them, we all need help. We don’t want to talk about it, especially the guys in Special Ops. We never need help but you have to get help because you don’t want to be like some of my friends who have committed suicide. They never got help. They never got the proper treatment. I know it’s hard. These programs here motivate me. I’m in pain but I’m out there living it. Just take one day at a time,” he said.

Roberts said the key is to get out of the house and get involved. “Do it once, and you’re going to see that you enjoy it. You’ll continuously start coming back and that right there should inspire you and start changing your life,” he said. “People get out of the military and feel depressed or left out. It only takes time to change your life. Don’t worry about making a team. Just get involved. Get engaged, have a good time, and you’re going to find out that life does get easier.”