Published: May 13, 2013
For about 70 years, the Sears family served in the U.S. Marine Corps with nary a scratch.
But luck ran out for Cpl. Ivan Sears, who lost both his lower legs to an improvised explosive device while on patrol in 2010 in Afghanistan.
It started a three-year recovery process that continues with his first Warrior Games, which continue through Thursday.
His father served in the first Gulf War while his older uncle enlisted after Vietnam. His grandfather was drafted during World War II. There was never any doubt Sears would join after high school.
"I consider myself a fourth-generation Marine. It has always been part of my family," the track and cycling entrant from 29 Palms, Calif., said. "My country is at war and I wanted to do something about it."
His injury led to months of grueling physical therapy in San Antonio.
"I would be sweating buckets of water," he said. "I had to learn how to use different muscles, especially my core to sit in a wheelchair or use prosthetics."
He has learned a lot about wheelchair track races from retired Sgt. Anthony McDaniel, who is competing in his second Warrior Games and serves as his coach.
"It's really important with guys who are new to the Games that the older guys help them out," McDaniel said. "He (Sears) is a great athlete and once he learns how to use the wheelchair, especially on his starts, he could do well."
"I'm pretty good at it considering I just started at the (Marine Corps) trials last month," Sears said. "I am watching everything he does. I didn't know what I was doing at first. He has taught me a lot."
His family rallied around Ivan after his injury to the point that he missed his independence.
"When I was first injured, they didn't think I could do anything,? the 23-year-old said. "They were very protective and supportive. My mom took two months off work and my dad spent the first month when I was transferred to San Antonio.
"After a while, I needed some space. I finally had to ask my mom to go back to work."
It can be difficult for families, who must adjust to their child or parent's new limitations too.
"When they saw me competing in sports like I did in high school, the light bulb went on," Sears said. "I love them but I needed to prove to them that I can live my own life. They don't see me as helpless anymore."
Neither will anyone in the crowd for Tuesday's races.
WARRIOR GAMES SCHEDULE
All competition free, open to public
Air Force Academy, U.S. Olympic Training Center
Track and Field, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Air Force track
Wheelchair basketball, 5-6:30 p.m., Cadet Gym/Clune Arena
Sitting volleyball, 7-9 p.m., Cadet Gym/Clune Arena
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)