Back From Brink Of Death, Corpsman Tackles 'Warrior Games'

Three years ago, Navy corpsman Angelo Anderson was shot in his arm and leg in Afghanistan and he thought he was going to die. Sunday, he's competing at the fourth-annual Warrior Games in Colorado, along with more than 200 wounded service members. Eric Whitney of Colorado Public radio has this profile of Anderson, who credits the paralympic-style competition with restoring him physically and mentally.

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Competition begins today in Colorado Springs in the fourth annual Warrior Games. It's a week of Paralympic-style sports for current and former members of the U.S. and British military who were injured while serving. Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney met one of the athletes at his track and field training session.

ERIC WHITNEY, BYLINE: Twenty-three-year old Angelo Anderson is a corpsman, a medic, in the U.S. Navy. Corpsmen often deploy with Marines, and that's what Anderson was doing in Afghanistan in July of 2010 when he came under fire. Bullets shattered the long bones in his right arm and leg.

ANGELO ANDERSON: I thought I was going to die actually, probably right at that moment once I hit the ground. I was like, this is it.

WHITNEY: As he lay there bleeding, Marines rushed to his aid. Anderson coached them on how to help him, and then spent the better part of a year in the hospital, enduring multiple surgeries and physical therapy.

ANDERSON: That was probably one of my lowest, lowest points. Once you're not physically capable to do something your mind is telling you that, you know, you want to be doing, you should be doing, it's hard. It really is.

WHITNEY: It was especially tough for Anderson, a high school track athlete, to be disabled. But early in his recovery, the Navy told him about its sports program. He says getting back into training, and having the Warrior Games to prepare for gave him familiar goals and something to look forward to. Anderson says he can't say if that's benefitted him more physically or psychologically.

ANDERSON: Oh, man. That's like asking for more vanilla or chocolate ice cream. You really can't go wrong. I mean...

WHITNEY: Both, huh?

ANDERSON: Yeah, it really is.

WHITNEY: Anderson is competing in three events: track, wheelchair basketball and cycling. Sitting beside the practice track, watching other veterans bounce past on prosthetic limbs and spin around in low-slung racing wheelchairs, Anderson says he gets inspired by his fellow athletes.

ANDERSON: People aren't just, like, sitting around doing nothing. Like, they're actually engaged, they're actually involved despite of what happened to them, or what people may tell them, or what, you know, the statistics say. So that, that right there in itself just makes it, regardless of the medals and stuff, just makes it worth being here, really.

WHITNEY: And he says he likes being able to help others, too. Like a Navy teammate fighting cancer who was struggling to finish a cycling race last year.

ANDERSON: I rolled up beside him. I just placed my hand on his back, and me and him finished that race together.

WHITNEY: There are seven events in the Warrior games, including sitting volleyball, swimming and archery. More than 200 athletes are participating on teams representing each of the military's service branches, as well as a Special Operations team and one from Great Britain. For NPR News, I'm Eric Whitney in Colorado Springs.

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