BREMERTON, Washington –
All completed projects at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility, great and small, are usually the result of a team of dedicated people working toward a common goal. This is similar to how an entire ship’s crew is credited with a successful deployment or mission.
Not surprisingly Bill Longworth, a Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility environmental health and safety auditor, valued the camaraderie he felt among all the competitors as much as he did his success as he competed at the Department of Defense’s 2018 Warrior Games, June 1-9, at the U.S. Air Force Academy, near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“The camaraderie, not only within the Navy team, but among all the athletes was awesome,” explained Longworth, who won a gold medal in pistol shooting and a bronze medal in the team archery event. “Not only among all the U.S. branches of service, but also among the athletes from all the nations that participated.”
Camaraderie is key
Longworth, a retired U.S. Navy nuclear electronics technician senior chief, said the camaraderie he felt during the games reminded him of how he felt as a Sailor before the July 2013 car accident in San Diego that resulted in permanent nerve damage in both legs, his medical retirement from the Navy, and his need to wear an Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis device on his left leg.
“I started rehab at Naval Medical Center San Diego doing daily physical therapy. It took two and a half years, to get me where I am now,” recalled Longworth. “I was one of the first folks to get the IDEO device for foot drop.”
All Warrior Games athletes are required to participate in at least two individual sports.
“I did field, which included seated shot put and seated discuss. I did shooting (pistol) and archery,” Longworth said. “I have a history with shooting recreationally, as well as within the Navy. I was part of the Navy Marksmanship Team. That’s what gave me the foundation skills for the pistol shooting at the Warrior Games.”
Longworth said the athletes had all faced serious illness or injuries that allowed them to identify with each other.
“We are all competitive by our nature,” he said. “However, as soon as the competition is done, or sometimes during it, we know we’re still equals. We’re still fellow athletes and fellow service members who have been through a major life-changing event. We all understand we’re there to help heal.”
Help with expenses
The Navy Safe Harbor Foundation works with the Navy’s Wounded Warrior Command Safe Harbor Program, which is run by CNIC, and pays for the travel, lodging and food for all the veterans. For the Warrior Games, the Fisher House Foundation paid for travel and lodging for up to two family members. Other sponsors help pay for uniforms, equipment and other costs related to the games themselves.
“It was a way of me proving to myself that I can still participate in sporting-type events,” said Longworth. “It was also a way to help my family, specifically my daughters, to understand that even with a disability, you can still be successful in whatever you decide you want to do.”
Longworth said other Wounded Warriors within the PSNS & IMF workforce should consider trying out for the Warrior Games, or getting involved in local adaptive sports.
“There is a large adaptive sports community in Seattle and in Tacoma,” he explained. “They have everything from sled hockey to wheelchair tennis. Athletes will feel the camaraderie and being around like-minded or like-abilitied people.”
He said participating in the Warrior Games and being around fellow Wounded Warriors who are thriving taught him about the resilience of the human spirit.
“Everyone has issues of their own, in some form,” he said. “You can overcome those issues. Sports and adaptive sports are one way of doing that.”