Athlete steps into coaches seat, becomes inspired

Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment
Story by Pfc. Carson Gramley

Date: 03.07.2014
Posted: 03.07.2014 19:21
News ID: 121710
Hawaii Marine veteran goes from competitor to coach at Marine Corps Trials

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - The Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment has several programs and care systems to help its members. The regiment provides medical, mental, and physical care to wounded, injured, or ill active and veteran service members.

For some, like 51 year-old retired Master Sgt. Dionisios Nicholas, an archery coach for the 2014 Marine Corps Trials, the regiment makes a world of difference and provides a whole new avenue to effectively reduce stress and adjust to a new lifestyle.

“When I come to the Marine Corps Trials and Wounded Warrior Games; being around my brothers, I can’t over-emphasize how this helps us,” Nicholas said.

The Marine Corps Trials is a compilation of Paralympic style sporting events where disabled active service members, veterans, and international allies can compete amongst each other and increase their strength so they can continue their military service or develop healthy habits for life outside the service. The trials provide an outlet where athletes can come together and enjoy the company of others who have similar challenges in life, explained Marine veteran Chris McGleinnaiss, a competitor in the Trials this year.

Nicholas served 23 years in the Marine Corps before retiring due to a recurring spine injury. He managed to work through the struggle of his injury for years before it became too much to manage.

“In 2005 I got re-injured and it just ruined my life,” Nicholas said. “I ended up having a spine fusion. Basically my world turned from hero to zero.“

Nicholas said after being a Marine and enjoying the brotherhood, he retired because he couldn’t lead his men anymore.

After retirement Nicholas spent two years nearly immobile, trying to recover. When he was invited to the Wounded Warrior Regiment, Nicholas found the strength to do more and became more involved. He went on to win multiple gold medals at the Warrior Games in air pistol competition shooting.

Now Nicholas is coaching fellow disabled veterans and service members to compete in the same competition he thrived in. He feels like he’s back in the fight again so to speak.

“It helps me as much as the athletes,” Nicholas said. “It helps me even more, as an athlete and now a coach, and I can give back. “I can connect with my brothers.”

Fellow coach Paul Davis has known Nicholas for a few years now and has seen the improvements he’s made. Davis expressed his admiration towards Nicholas for his strength to overcome his injury and eagerness to help others cope with their own.

“Coach Nicholas has an amazing ability to really compartmentalize and achieve great things,” Davis said. “He’s been through a lot and is a great example and inspiration for those around him.”

Nicholas said he feels he has come a long way with the Wounded Warrior Regiment and plans to continue coaching and being involved any way he can. He will be alongside his fellow athletes at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., this September.