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.
During 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."
Remembering the Fallen
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 'brothers.'"
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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