News: Army archery shoots for gold
Story by Maj. Earl Brown
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Slowly drawing back to anchor his shot, Sgt. Lance Thorton, retired, took one last breath and delicately zeroed in on the target. With a slight move of his cheek to the trigger, he let loose a carbon fiber arrow. Flying down range at nearly 300 feet per second, the arrow smacked the target, falling below its mark by mere inches.
“We’re sucking today,” Thorton said, laughing and shaking his head in disbelief.
Capt. Frank Barroquiero nodded in agreement as the two retrieved their arrows.
With his next three arrows, Thorton redeemed himself by scoring three bull’s-eyes.
“Now that’s how it’s done, sir,” he said, gleaming.
Thorton said he never expected he’d be representing the Army and his country in the 2013 Warrior Games as an archery athlete.
Six years ago, his mounted combat patrol hit an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. The explosive form projectile latterly ripped through his right arm. Doctors had to amputate.
Overcoming the loss of his right arm below the elbow, Thorton credited his fellow athletes and the Army’s Wounded Warrior program with his transition.
“When you’re out, you kind of miss the camaraderie, and when you get a chance to come back and be with the guys, [it’s awesome],” he said. “I stayed in touch with my Army Wounded Warrior counselor, who helped me through the [Veterans Affairs] process and showed me the door to the Warrior Games.”
Thorton joined seven other Army archers at Fort Carson, May 8, for training.
Selecting a team to represent the Army proved to be a science and a craft, said T.J. Pemberton, archery head coach. Choosing the right athletes is also a coaching lesson taught to help build teamwork, emotional recovery and friendships that will last beyond the closing ceremonies.
“We look for the best shooters when selecting our team, but we also look for positive attitudes and team players,” said Pemberton. “We press our athletes to focus on the team factor, where they’re able to anticipate each other’s thoughts and actions, but most of all - have fun.”
Nearly 250 athletes will compete in the Warrior Games, held at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Olympic Training center, May 11-16, including Thorton and his teammates. The games brought together wounded service members from all branches of service and the United Kingdom.
“This is something that makes us feel like we have a mission again, something to compete for, and that’s worthwhile,” said Barroquiero.
After being shot in the right arm in Afghanistan in Aug. 2009, doctors told Barroquiero that he would never pull a bow back again. He defied the odds, refusing to amputate, and uses the competition as therapy.
Sgt. Edward Patton Jr., another archer, suffered extensive injures from a UH-60 Black Hawk “hard landing.” He picked up a bow for the first time six months ago.
“This whole thing got me back on track again and back in the game,” he said. “When I was told I couldn’t stay in the military, it felt like my life had fallen apart, and archery helped get me out of the barracks and pulled me out of my depression.”
Optimistic of his gold medal chances, Patton hopes to take back what he has learned from participation in the games and share with his fellow wounded, ill and injured soldiers back at the Warrior Transition Battalion in Orlando, Fla.
“My goal is to have fun every time I step up to the line, I love sending arrows down range. I am lucky enough to have found archery, something to get up for everyday that I enjoy and love to do,” he said. “Being here has given me one last ‘Hooah’ moment to prove myself. One last chance to show I’m good at what I do for the Army, and to say ‘I’m still a soldier’.”