Carson soldiers win medals at Valor Games

October 22, 2013 Updated: October 22, 2013 at 10:35 am
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Two soldiers from Fort Carson's Warrior Transition Battalion took home gold medals from an annual athletic competition for wounded warriors held last month in Texas.

Sgt. 1st Class Keoki Smythe and Spc. Sherry Snow netted the coveted medals in upright cycling and 10-meter air rifle prone respectively at the Valor Games, held Sept. 23-25 in San Antonio.

"It always feels good to represent your battalion," said Smythe, an infantryman with back and knee injuries who has been cycling competitively for a year.

Smythe, who uses a typical trail bike without adaptations, said he enjoyed the technical 12.5-mile course.

"There were a bunch of small turns and a nice little S-shaped curve with a small climb up the backside," he said. "It was a lot of fun."

Smythe was assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit while stationed in Europe because of injuries he suffered during training and in combat.

He was transferred to Fort Carson's Warrior Transition Battalion nearly a year ago and began competitive cycling when he heard about the Warrior Games, an annual athletic competition in Colorado Springs for active-duty wounded troops.

He took fifth place in cycling at the Warrior Games and second place in cycling at the Endeavor Games, an annual athletic completion in Edmund, Okla., for those with physical disabilities.

Smythe was once an avid runner. Because of his injuries, that's no longer a possibility. Cycling is a nice substitute, he said.

"I have a really good command that supports us getting out there and competing in the adaptive sports program," said Smythe, who coaches cycling and seated volleyball for the battalion. "They feel like if you can get back into sports, you can reclaim that part of your life back.

"I can't go out and run anymore or do some of the sports I used to. But I can do this. I can still be competitive with my peers."

In addition to her gold medal, Snow recently found out she'll receive a bronze medal for her performance in the overall shooting category.

"I was stoked," said Snow, who refers to shooting as her "safe place."

"When I'm on the range, my post-traumatic stress disorder is not there," said Snow, a combat medic who also has a traumatic brain injury. "My anxiety is not there."

Snow also participated in kayaking to encourage a Marine friend who was nervous about competing without the full use of both arms.

She didn't medal and didn't intend to.

Her friend took home a bronze medal.

"That was more important to me than bringing home a medal in that event," said Snow, who arrived at the battalion this spring.

More than similar competitions, the Valor Games are about competitors encouraging each other to achieve their personal best, she said.

"At the Warrior Games, we're competing against the Marines, the Navy, Special Operations Command, the Brits," she said. "At the Valor Games, you have not only active-duty military personnel but veterans from Vietnam, Desert Storm. There's just more of a camaraderie, more of pushing people to push their limits."

"I got to meet all these people whose injuries are worse than mine and were frankly just kicking my butt," she added with a smile.

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