In the moments after John Meyer Jr. won the open compound archery competition at Thursday’s Warrior Games, he showed virtually no emotion. He waved at his wife, Amanda. He smiled, just a little. He did not shake his fist or shout with joy.
It was an act. A convincing act, for sure, but an act.
“Inside, I’m jumping up and down,” he says, a big gold medal hanging from his neck.
Meyer, an Air Force staff sergeant who works with B-52s at Barksdale in Shreveport, La., wondered only a few years ago if he were headed for any kind of victory.
In 2015, he was freshly home in Louisiana from an assignment in Guam. He was riding his motorcycle, on his way to see friends. At Exit 8 on Interstate 20, he was forced to swerve to avoid a semi.
He missed that truck, but hit another.
He suffered fractures in every bone in his face. He suffered traumatic brain injury. For a time, he lost his sight and later suffered double vision. He still can’t remember the two weeks prior to his accident.
For months, he wondered what was ahead. He had little idea of what he could do and could not do in his new reality.
“When you can’t take care of yourself after an accident like that, you lose your self-worth and you lose your self-confidence and it’s really hard to get back on track,” he says.
He turned to adaptive sports, competing in wheelchair basketball, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball and archery. He found himself surrounded by Air Force athletes who also had suffered severe injuries. They refused to surrender to pity or despair, which helped him refuse to surrender, too. They inspired him. He inspired them. This circle of inspiration helped him in his march back.
"You have so many things wrong with you that you don’t think you can push on,” he says. “But you just get the ball rolling and you get back to being healthy and it’s awesome.”
A year ago, Meyer competed in visually impaired archery. But surgery transformed his vision from 20-90 to 20-10 in his left eye and 20-30 in his left eye, allowing him to move to the open category.
On Thursday, he took a calm and methodical route to triumph. He was never flustered. He almost always was accurate.
When Meyer clinched victory, Amanda was standing only a few feet away. She, like her husband of almost 13 years, displayed little emotion. That’s not their style.
“Oh,” Amanda says with a big smile, “I’m absolutely proud.”