Army Spc. Chase Meyer stood poolside at Fort Gordon’s Aquatic Center, the Purple Heart tattoo on his arm dripping water from his most recent race.
The 23-year-old Louisiana native grew up swimming, but Tuesday represented his first time competing in the pool against other “wounded warriors.”
Swimming “keeps your mind off all the craziness,” said Meyer, whose life has been a cycle of hospitals and therapy since he was medically evacuated from Afghanistan in October. He traveled to Fort Gordon on Tuesday with other members of Fort Stewart’s Warrior Transition Battalion for the first of three days of Paralympic Games on the Army post.
The games opened with a 6-mile cycling race. Fort Gordon swept competitors from Fort Stewart and Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Jackson, S.C., in all divisions: recumbent bicycle, hand cycle and upright bicycle.
The competition was stiffer at the pool, where Fort Stewart emerged as the overall swimming winner.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Misuraca represented Fort Gordon by swimming in several races, but it’s only a prelude to an Ironman competition later this month. He still suffers from leg pain left after an armor-piercing round shattered his femur in Iraq in 2010.
Like other soldiers stationed at Fort Gordon, he receives treatment at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center.
For many of the recovering soldiers, swimming is the best exercise because it doesn’t cause stress on the joints and limbs. That was the case for Sgt. Elizabeth Ellis, who is about a week from medical retirement. Hip surgery damaged the nerves in her leg and made walking and sitting painful.
Under the guidance of coach Fred Lamback, whose son has won medals in the world Paralympic Games, Ellis easily swims 3,000 meters at practice.
Ellis has regained her muscle strength after two years on bed rest, but swimming has also improved her outlook on life.
“My mood is better, I feel better and I’m able to move around now,” she said.
The games continue through Thursday with competitions in archery, shooting and wheelchair basketball.