By John M. Rosenberg
Warrior Transition Command
WEST POINT, N.Y. (June 11, 2016) – Most people learn the art of swimming at a very early age and the details of their first plunge, be it at a summer retreat, in a backyard pool or at the beach, is but a hazy memory. For U.S. Army Veteran Staff Sgt. Matthew Lammers, of Tucson, Arizona, these recollections are quite fresh given that his initial foray into the water occurred little more than two years ago.
Though new to the sport, Lammers is hardly wet behind the ears. What’s remarkable is that this retired staff sergeant, despite his scant time in the pool, has already tested the waters of competitive swimming and will take measure of his abilities against athletes of the three other branches of the American military, in addition to those of Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom Armed Forces, at the U.S Military Academy, during the 2016 DoD Warrior Games.
In June of 2007, while on routine patrol in Baghdad, a Humvee in which Lammers was traveling received a direct hit from an Improvised Explosive Device. As a result of the explosion, Lammers was thrown from the vehicle, , losing both legs and his left arm. It wasn’t the first occasion in which the two-time Purple Heart recipient was hit. Three years earlier another IED struck a vehicle in which Lammers was riding, tearing through the engine block and violently flipping it upside down.
Shortly after the second attack, Lammers was flown stateside and admitted to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Another outstanding facet of the Lammers’ story is that his swimming was self-taught, having initially been drawn to the pool in order to lose weight. Like many wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Lammers finds the buoyant qualities of water to be liberating. As an adaptive sport, swimming presents itself as a low-impact activity that requires few, if any, prosthetics.
“I find the process of putting on a prosthetic exhausting,” said Lammers. “Swimming allows me to regain a sense of independence, and frees me from reliance upon a wheel chair.”
With its gentle repetitiveness, swimming can also be a fantastic stress reliever. However, time in the water is not all about finding inner peace and quiet tranquility. It is also a daily challenge. Lammers pushes himself six days a week, each day propelling through three miles of water over the course of two hours.
Orphaned in Korea and adopted by an Olathe, Kansas high school principal and an early childhood special education teacher, Lammers is cheered on by his wife Alicia who is ever- poolside with him while he trains.
Lammers has been receiving instruction on how to improve upon his stroke and in bettering his overall time. A cross-country athlete and basketball player in high school, Lammers said he enjoys competition, but admits swimming against others “was nerve wracking at first.”
Wounded, ill and injured swimmers are divided into ten classes based on their degree of functional disability. Lammers participates in the freestyle and backstroke, hoping soon to add the butterfly to his list.
Improving his overall time is important, though, more than anything, Lammers enjoys being in the water with other people. At Warrior Games he relishes competing on behalf of Team Army and in surrounding himself with the entire compliment of wounded, ill and injured athletes. “I want so much to be here,” said Lammers. “Just pick a lane and let me swim!”
Team Army swim coach Atiba Wade said, Lammers is “a quintessential example of how sports transcends competition.” He also states that it’s very apparent that swimming has become, for Lammers, a journey of self -discovery.
So captivated is Lammers with his newly uncovered passion that he speaks of his desire to swim the English Channel as well as the Strait of Gibraltar, known in ancient times as the Pillars of Hercules.
Whether or not he realizes this dream, the world’s modern day Hercules may well be present at Warrior Games, in the form of Veteran Staff Sgt. Matthew Lammers.
|Date Posted:||06.13.2016 16:42|
|Location:||WEST POINT, NY, US|
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