Published: May 14, 2013
Retired Coast Guard Lt. Sancho Johnson is one of many success stories at the Warrior Games.
In addition to being a property manager and shopping center owner, he works as a motivational speaker, relaying his experiences to others with spinal-cord injuries.
"I know how easy it would be to just keep sitting on the couch feeling sorry for yourself and feeling like the world owes you something," he said. "I try to inspire them to do more because life is what you make it."
He competed in the seated shot put (sixth) and discus (seventh) Tuesday and spent the rest of his time in Colorado Springs cheering on his teammates. He is the only Guardsman participating on the Navy/Coast Guard combined team and takes his opportunity seriously.
"I owe everything I am today to the Coast Guard," he said. "They gave me the medical attention I needed and the ongoing therapy that I may never had as a civilian. Representing the Guard here is a way for me to give something back."
Johnson served 14 years before he was injured in a 2009 crash while on leave. He was riding on a bus that lost control and drove off a cliff on the Caribbean island of Dominica, leaving him with all but one rib broken, a shattered right leg and shoulder, and a spinal-cord injury.
Johnson lives in Jackson, Miss., where he co-chairs Blessings Restored, a nonprofit that assists individuals with spinal-cord injuries and children who have lost one or both parents prior to graduating high school.
The four-time Warrior Games competitor manages Brand72 Co., which oversees five residential rental properties. He and his wife Shundra are building a shopping center that includes their own 20,000 square-foot family entertainment business.
Participating in the torch relay at the 2012 opening ceremony remains a personal highlight.
"I was so excited and honored to get the opportunity to represent my team and the Coast Guard," he said.
He is a favorite among his teammates and their families, eliciting high-fives and hugs wherever he went. It doesn't take long to see why his indomitable attitude and warm personality led to his post-military success.
"Lt. Johnson can be quiet and reserved, but he never fails to leave a lasting impression," Navy Lt. Megan Haydel, who oversees the team, said. "He always has a positive attitude, and he cares so much about each of his teammates. He inspires all of us."
WARRIOR GAMES SCHEDULE
All competition free, open to public unless noted
Air Force Academy
Archery, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Air Force indoor track, Clune Arena
Wheelchair basketball, 4:30-6 p.m. (bronze-medal match); 8:30-10 p.m. (gold), both Clune Arena
Sitting volleyball, 6:30-8 p.m. (bronze), Cadet Gym East; 6:30-8 (gold), Clune Arena
Swimming, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Air Force pool
Closing ceremony, 6-7:30 p.m., Air Force indoor track, Clune Arena (invitation only)