For the participants, it is a time of rejuvenation, comradery and esprit de corps. For some, though, it will be their final competition. Marine Corps veteran Clayton J. McDaniel is one of those athletes.
The 30-year-old native of Molalla, Ore., joined the Marine Corps in 2006 as a motor transport operator. His military career was cut short in 2010 during a tour with Combat Logistics Battalion 3 in Southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan, when he was injured with a bilateral hip injury and PTSD. For McDaniel, competing in the DoD Warrior Games has helped him work through his injuries.
“The (Warrior) games allows us to come together as a group, regardless of what branch of the armed forces you’re in, gives us an outlet through sports to not think about our bad days or what we’ve been through,” he explained. “And if we do have a bad day, we’ve got our brothers and sisters right here with us. We may be doing the same sport, competing against each other, but we’re all here for each other.”
That’s been an important part of McDaniel’s participation in four Warrior Games, four Marine Corps Trials and this year’s Invictus Games. For many of the wounded warriors here, including McDaniel, this competition is some of the best medicine available for them.
“I think the Warrior Games definitely stands for an organization that allows us to compete at a friendly level but also adapt and overcome our issues through sports,” McDaniel said. “This is my year to pass on the torch, mentoring others who are coming into the games for the first time, about the opportunities for them at events like this.”
Those opportunities include being with your fellow veterans, something most wounded warriors miss after they leave the service. For McDaniel, the DoD Warrior Games is a chance to reconnect with his fellow warriors and be with people who understand what you’re going through.
“I don’t get to be with military members at this level and I miss being able to get together and talk about what I’ve been through in the past, using one another and what we’ve all learned to build ourselves up through camaraderie and friendship,” he said.
McDaniel will be competing in several events at the Warrior Games, including archery, pistol and rifle shooting, discus and shotput. He also plans to spend his free time mentoring the newest additions to the wounded warrior team about what to take advantage of while at the games.
“My main advice to them is ‘don’t take it for granted,’” McDaniel began. “My first couple of years, I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to talk to someone about what I was going through, I only came to compete. If you don’t use it while you’re here, you’re going to regret it.”
Even while being surrounded by his fellow wounded warriors, McDaniel’s credits his wife, Sarah, and son, Clayton, Jr., for pushing him to go further and not let his injury keep him down.
“It was very challenging for them. I remember when my wife said to me, ‘do you want to be the Marine that fell down and never got back up?’ And I said no,” McDaniel confided. “That was the one thing that stuck with me the most. They never gave up on me.”
Besides being a mentor to the new athletes participating in this year’s Warrior Games, McDaniel’s overall goal is to have fun. Before he takes that last shot on the rifle range, knock his last arrow or throw his last shotput or discus, he just wants to enjoy his time with his fellow Marines and the other warriors.
“I’m not going to take any one single moment for granted,” he concluded. “I want to have fun and make as many friends as possible.”
|Date Posted:||06.17.2016 20:33|
|Location:||WEST POINT, NY, US|
|Hometown:||MOLALLA, OR, US|
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