By Sameria Zavala
Womack Army Medical Center Public Affairs
WEST POINT, N.Y. (June 14, 2016) – U.S. Army Veteran Staff Sgt. Gregory Quarles, a retired infantryman and native of Ringgold, Georgia, overcame anxiety and depression after he accepted his injuries. Now, he has a positive outlook on life and is pleased that he made it to the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. Last year, he was rushed to emergency spine surgery and could not compete in the games even though he qualified to compete.
“I knew I had to have my second spine surgery sooner or later. I just tried to put it off until after the games, but one morning I woke up and I couldn’t feel my legs,” said Quarles. “On the opening day of the 2015 Warrior Games, I was in surgery.”
Quarles endured nearly six hours of surgery, with a 15-day hospital stay and around 65 days of recovery.
A resident of Fort Worth, Texas, Quarles retired out of the Fort Benning, Georgia, Warrior Transition Battalion in May of this year and is competing in archery, cycling, field and shooting events during the 2016 DoD Warrior Games.
“I started doing this just to have fun and now I’ve progressed to make it to the Warrior Games,” said Quarles. "The people that make it here advance to the (U.S.) Paralympics; it’s how much you put into it and how much you want from it.”
Along with Quarles’ invisible injuries, he also shared the experience of his physical injuries.
“The enemy drove a dump truck packed with 5,000 pounds of explosives and breached our perimeter wall. I was a few hundred feet away from the explosion, and it picked me up and threw me 10 feet, that’s how I sustained the lower back injury,” said Quarles. “I got up and got some people out that were trapped under objects. The sirens sounded in the area of the breach and we started heading toward that sound.”
“Depression and anxiety set in from my injuries and then I was introduced to adaptive sports; archery, air rifle, cycling, it brought me out of that,” explained Quarles.
“Even though you do have injuries, there are things (sports) that you can do to still have that competitive edge,” said Quarles. “It gets me around people that have similar or worse injuries and no matter how bad my day is going, I draw energy from those people. The games have really helped me a lot.”
Quarles’ goal is to make it to the U. S. Paralympic games, but he is more influenced by the people around him. Because of the experience he’s had at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Benning, he continues to encourage those around him to keep going and find an adaptive sport that works for them.
“I’m not big on myself,” said Quarles. “I would say to all the fellow Soldiers, ‘whatever branch you are in, the sky is the limit.’ No matter what injury you have; from the mildest traumatic brain injury to a quad amputee, the door is open. You’ve got to be open minded and don’t just sit on your butt.”
You’ve got to be an advocate,” said Quarles. “There are all these different programs that are put together for us. It’s not a handout; these sports are put in place to help us.”
|Date Posted:||06.16.2016 11:18|
|Location:||WEST POINT, NY, US|
This work, Persistence brings athlete back to DoD Warrior Games, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.