Wounded Warriors from Fort Stewart teach wheelchair basketball

Ethan Flynn

Wounded Warriors from Fort Stewart Teach Wheelchair Basketball to the members of STRA for a first-time event at Georgia Southern.

The game of life is continual learning process from the moment we’re born until the moment we die. The game of life doesn’t always make sense. Some of the most vivid moments of the game of life stem from the moments we’re least expecting. For example, how would running around the track of the RAC, while witnessing a wheelchair basketball game, make an ever-lasting impact on my life?

I felt compelled to stop running and I did so. I couldn’t tell whether the wheelchair basketball game was a one-time ordeal or a weekly occurrence, so my curiosity told me to determine what was taking place. When I made it onto the basketball court, I was greeted by smiling faces of a group of men and women in wheelchairs.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if these individuals were disabled or whether they were simply playing the sport of wheelchair basketball. However, I could see some of the individuals wearing U.S. Military attire, so my inclination prior to talking to any of the individuals was that they were disabled veterans.

When I spoke with someone working for the university, I found out that the individuals were composed of Wounded Warriors from Fort Stewart and students STRA. STRA’s mission statement states: The purpose of STRA is to encourage participation in career programs offered by STRA, to promote professionalism and social interaction among students, to provide opportunities for professional development, and to create an awareness of Therapeutic Recreation.

The STRA President, Kady Crump, spoke with me while taking a break from helping her organization’s members keep pace with the Wounded Warriors of Fort Stewart.

“We’re playing wheelchair basketball with the Wounded Warriors of Fort Stewart who are veterans in recovery from mental or physical injuries,” Crump said. “This is showing that even if you’re disabled you can get back out there and enjoy life. You’ve got to have a team mentality to get through life because when somebody is down you should pick them up. Life goes on. I can’t fathom what some of these individuals have been through. Wheelchair basketball may seem like a simple sport, but to some of these individuals, it’s getting them on their feet again.”

“We’ve got a first-time event with Wounded Warriors from Fort Stewart who are visiting and teaching Georgia Southern students how to play wheelchair basketball,” Dr. Brent Wolfe, STRA’s faculty adviser, said. “It’s great for these guys who come from Fort Stewart. It’s a chance for them to come show off their skills and a chance for our students to really see how tough it is to compete at their level. We try every semester to have a disability demo like this. The Wounded Warriors from Fort Stewart play across the country in leagues that are highly, highly competitive.”

As I watched the event unfold, one thing was clear to me. The individuals playing appeared to be having a really enjoyable time. While watching, I witnessed lots of smiles, high-fives and laughing going on. The Wounded Warriors from Fort Stewart could be seen coaching the STRA members on the rules and techniques to become the best wheelchair basketball players possible.

“We’re here working with the Georgia Southern wheelchair basketball team by helping them through and teaching them some new techniques they need to learn. I’m excited to be here. Getting out there enjoying the camaraderie with the vets and students is the best part,” William Redfield, Master Sergeant and participant, said.

Becoming a member of the U.S. Military is a momentous decision for many men and women in our country. It’s a decision that’s not always easily made or understood but there’s one thing that’s most certainly true; the men and women of the U.S. Military sacrifice to serve our country in hopes of continual freedom for those home and abroad.

One of my favorite quotes regarding our U.S. Military comes from the legendary U.S. WWII General, Douglas MacArthur, who once said, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

I never expected to witness something so humbling while simply running on the track at the RAC. Simply put, it made me appreciate the ability to move freely more than I ever could’ve imagined. I’ll never forget the impact the Wounded Warriors of Fort Stewart had on me and the members of STRA. Sometimes it’s the simplest of gestures or the simplest of games that bring about the best in humanity. The undeniable determination to channel what’s been lost by these veterans clearly resonates in the game of wheelchair basketball.

STRA’s intramural wheelchair basketball team meets at the RAC on Thursdays at 7 p.m. Another event to look forward to is STRA’s Laughter Yoga session scheduled for March 2. To find out more about STRA, you can find them on MyInvolvement, find them on Facebook and email their President Kady Crump @kc06413@georgiasouthern.edu.