Sports

May 8, 2013 6:47 PM by Greg Smith

Wounded Warrior finds reason to compete

At first, it looks like your average game of volleyball, but at a second glance it's something bigger.

Chief Master Sargent Damian Orslene was wounded in an explosion in Iraq in 2007. Now, after six years of surgeries and complications, he's the vocal leader of the Air Force Warrior Games sitting volleyball team. The transition wasn't easy.

"My wife and I did triathalons all over Europe," said Orslene. "When I was laying in a hospital bed for three years, what I kept being told was all the things I was never going to do again. 'You'll never run again, never bicycle again.' You start spiraling down into this dark pit of 'You'll never be an athlete again.'"

His loss of identity led to, as he puts it, a dark story.

"I found myself sitting on the corner of my bed staring at a nine-millimeter pistol," said Orslene. "All that mattered was I just couldn't take the pain anymore. My wife came home and she found me crying, and I told her to get all the guns out of the house, and get me some help. And she did."

A week later, he got a phone call from a coach of a Warrior Games team.

"'You don't need some 42-year-old, pudgy, white guy getting my butt kicked by 20 year-old navy seals.' And I hung up," said Orslene. "They said 'Hey, no kidding Damian, we need some help. We need you to come swim with us.' And I believed in her. I started out as a swimmer."


Four years later, he's got four bronze medals, and a new outlook on life.

"There are very few people in this world who understand what I went through," said Orslene. "Until I walked through that door, and there are 50 brothers and sisters, who wear blue, who understand exactly what I'm talking about. The therapy that this gives us, the camaraderie, and the lift, belonging to something greater than yourself. The Warrior Games, and sport, save your life. And it does every year."


And it will again. In just a few days.

 

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