After joining the Navy 20 years ago and attending basic training
at nearby Naval Station Great Lakes, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ramesh
Haytasingh is proud to end his military career competing in the 2017
Department of Defense Warrior Games.
July 5, 2017 - Lt. Cmdr Ramesh Haytasingh throws seated discus in
the 2017 Dept. of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago. An inscription
on the tape holding his hand to support pole reads ‘All Gas No
Brakes.’ The DoD Warrior Games are an annual event allowing wounded,
ill and injured service members and veterans to compete in
Paralympic-style sports. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)
Throughout the week, about 265 wounded, ill and injured service
members and veterans representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps,
Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command,
United Kingdom and the Australian Defense Force are competing in
shooting, archery, cycling, track and field, swimming, sitting
volleyball and wheelchair basketball.
Haytasingh earned gold
medals in the seated shot put and discus yesterday. He competes in
air rifle tomorrow and in swimming the following day.
last year's games at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New
York, Haytasingh's Socom team voted to give him the "Heart of the
Team" award because he can't pass an athlete, family member or coach
without smiling, giving them a hug and providing support.
"He's always thinking of everybody else and cheering them on and
encouraging them," Kathy Bottrell said. "I'm at a loss to describe
him. He's a great human being."
Bottrell said Haytasingh is
like an adopted son. He flew to Germany to be with her son after he
was injured in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan
and stayed with him until he recovered at Walter Reed National
Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
"I love Ramesh
like my own son," Michael Bottrell said. "He's one of my biggest
heroes. He's like a hug parade. He's always been inspiring."
Haytasingh is a
training officer with Socom at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. He
served as a special operations explosive ordnance disposal
technician during five deployments -- to Afghanistan from 2005 to
2012 and in Iraq from 2003 to 2011. He would help disarm roadside
bombs for special operations forces.
At one point, he was
attached to the Navy's Seal Team 6. "It was the most humbling
experience, supporting the members of the Seal Team 6 community," he
said. "They were some of the most professional sailors I've ever had
the opportunity to work with."
A 2013 surfing accident
injured his neck and spinal cord and caused a traumatic brain
injury. He lost his voice for two years.
"I went through
significant lost and dark times, but while I was recovering, the
community and brothers in my community reached out," Haytasingh
said. "And as I slowly attended, I started speaking for the first
time after two and a half years. Life started changing for me with
adaptive sports. Adaptive sports and being around brothers and
sisters -- it's such a life-altering and amazing blessing. I can't
express that enough."
For Haytasingh, participating in the DoD
Warrior Games isn't about earning the medals, but rather is about
honoring his fallen brothers. "I wanted to compete in everything,
but I had to choose my three favorite sports: air rifle, swimming
and seated shot put and discus," he said. "This is my last hoorah to
my brothers I've lost over the last 20 years. I have over 33 that
I've lost. I don't say 'friends.' I don't say 'acquaintances.' I say
Haytasingh said that if he hadn't been limited
to three sports, he would have competed until every drop of sweat,
blood and tears was out of his body. I'm still going to give it 110
percent," he added, "because that's all the members here from the
military branches know how to do. I'm excited to be here. It's my
last year in the military. ... Great Lakes is no more than 45
minutes away, so it's very special to me.
By Shannon Collins
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