SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. - More than 12 wounded, ill and injured soldiers and Army veterans traveled to Sumter, S.C., to train and compete for a place on the Army Warrior Games archery team March 12-16.
Putting the town’s slogan of “uncommon patriotism” into action, the Sumter community came together to support soldiers, veterans and the training camp.
“It’s really nice that the community here and the American Legion support us,” said retired Sgt. Kinga Kiss-Johnson, originally from Miercurea-Ciuc, Romania.
Kiss-Johnson first visited Sumter in January to attend a Warrior Transition Command archery clinic to prepare, train and compete for a slot on the competing at this year’s games. Kiss-Johnson said she became involved in archery to get out of the house after her injury and now the clinic has helped her compete and reach her dreams.
“This is set up and designed for rehabilitation, physical therapy, mental therapy, self-awareness, building confidence - helping our soldiers come back,” said Army’s Warrior Games archery coach, Steven Coleman.
The WTC required the soldiers and veterans hoping to compete in Warrior Games to participate in the clinics. The event successfully took place in Sumter thanks to cooperative efforts between Coleman and American Legion Post 15.
Coleman, a Sumter native, worked with Post 15 to arrange for the use of the agricultural building at the Sumter County Fairgrounds and secured donations and sponsorships from local organizations.
Coleman first became involved with the program two years ago while stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Coleman volunteered to run the archery program and, after retiring from the Army in August 2011, he continues to dedicate his time and skills to the those willing to give it a try.
“It’s my passion and my life’s hobby,” said Coleman. “It’s very rewarding and gratifying to get to do this.”
As the clinic progressed and the soldiers continued to step to the line and take aim, Coleman wasn’t the only one there to show his support. Sergeants major and directorate chiefs from Third Army/ARCENT stopped by to talk with the soldiers and encourage them.
“I brought all my soldiers down here to come eat breakfast with these guys,” said Master Sgt. Dwight Gordon, Third Army/ARCENT Personnel Plans and Operations non-commissioned officer. “It was a good education for them.”
Gordon spoke with many of the competitors and eventually stepped to the line himself while one of the soldiers coached him through a few shots.
“They are still part of the team, they are just a part of the team in a different shape, form or fashion,” Gordon said.
The Warrior Games consist of athletes from the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force and special operations competing for gold in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball. Participants are required to compete in more than one sport.
This year’s Army archery team will be chosen by WTC with recommendations from Coleman. The team will compete at this year’s games, now in its third year, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 30-May 5.