Words such as “can’t” or “no” seemingly do not apply to 2017 DoD
Warrior Games athlete Christy Gardner. After suffering a spinal-cord
injury in 2006 that left her paralyzed, and subsequently having both
legs amputated, she is competing in her first Warrior Games and
apparently nothing is holding her back.
“It’s a little
overwhelming, but it’s really exciting to be here,” said Gardner.
“To be back part of a unit is huge. Everyone has each other’s back
again like being in a squad.”
No one could be blamed for
expecting Gardner to take things easy for the rest of her life, but
that’s before you get to know her.
July 5, 2017 - Team Army athlete Christina Gardner and her dog Moxie
take a break after the discus competition in the 2017 DoD
Warrior Games. The DoD Warrior Games are an annual event allowing
wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans to compete in
Paralympic-style sports including archery, cycling, field, shooting,
sitting volleyball, swimming, track and wheelchair basketball. (DoD
photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anna-Liesa Hussey)
“I was a U.S. Army Sergeant in the Military Police Corps.
82nd MP Battalion out of Ft. Hood,” said Gardner. “I got
hurt in the summer of 2006, I was on a peace keeping mission
overseas. I suffered two skull fractures and some facial
fractures. In the medivac, they accidentally injured my
spinal cord,” she explained.
In 2015, Gardner, with
help from her physicians, decided it would be best to treat
her paralysis with leg amputations. At the time is was a
relatively uncommon practice but one that has proven
successful for her.
“When she first told us ‘Mom, I’ve decided to have my legs
amputated’ it’s like what?! What the heck are you talking about?!
You are not going to have your legs cut off,” said Norna Heidrich-Crowell,
Gardner’s mother. “She explained it to us and it hurt at first but,
after seeing her from recuperation and the first time she put a
prosthetic on and the smile on her face as she walked it’s just
really hard to describe. It just brings me to tears. I was in tears
when I saw her run her first race. Considering when she first got
injured she came home with a list of things that she would never do,
she’s proven them all wrong.”
Along with her mom and
coaches, Gardner has another very important member of her support
network, her service dog Moxie.
“She’s been with me for about
seven years now so she’s stuck through it all,” said Gardner. “She’s
specifically trained for seizure alert response. Since the surgeries
she’s been more of a motivator, where she’ll take her ball and press
it up against my leg and give me those puppy dog eyes to say
‘alright, time to get up to go walk or play.’ She kicks my butt and
makes me get off the couch.”
Any single sport at the Warrior
Games would take extreme amounts of dedication and training to
compete in. Gardner is competing in sitting volleyball, discus, shot
put, track and swimming.
“With my new legs I am able to run,”
says Gardner. “So, that’s my favorite part just because I couldn’t
do it and now I can. So far I have golds in the 100, 200 and 800
Gardner then went on to take a gold medal in the 400
meter race in her class.
2017 is the first year that the
Warrior Games have been held in a city and not on a military
installation. Organizers are hoping that bringing the games out into
the public will bring more attention to the games and athletes by
reaching a wider audience. Gardner hopes the awareness helps reach
other injured, wounded, or ill veterans and service members.
“Adaptive sports have been such a crucial step in my recovery,”
Gardner said. “I want everyone to have the same opportunity. I felt
so limited but here it’s like there are no boundaries. I would say
absolutely come to this. Events like this are a life changer.”
The 2017 DoD Warrior Games continue until July 8 in Chicago. The
games are an annual event allowing wounded, ill and injured service
members and veterans to compete in Paralympic-style sports including
archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming,
track and wheelchair basketball.
information about the DoD Warrior Games
By U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jonathan Word
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