By SHANNON COLLINS - Hometown News Service
An Ashtabula native knows how an explosion, crash, gunshot or emotional trauma can push a military serviceman to a place of unfamiliarity — the sidelines. And through the healing process, Paralympic sport gives many survivors the chance to prove anyone can overcome disability.
Army Staff Sgt. Spencer Anderson II, son of Lori Shinkle of Ashtabula, is competing for the Army team this week at the 2013 Wounded Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Throughout the event, wounded, sick and injured service members and veterans from the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, as well as some from Special Operations Command, and a team from the British military are competing in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball makeup the events.
Anderson is competing for the gold in cycling, track and sitting volleyball.
“He’s excited to compete for a second time,” said his mother. “He came in third in the cycling competition.”
Unfortunately, Shinkle wasn’t able to go because of her work schedule.
“I hope to go next year,” she said.
Anderson, 32, is a 2000 graduate of Ashtabula High School. He said it’s an honor to represent his team and the Army.
“We are going to sweep the podium medals,” he said. “We are a great group of people willing to work hard and accomplish whatever we set out to do.”
Anderson said the Warrior Games is very rewarding.
“The sense of team was one of the most rewarding moments of my career,” he said.
On Jan. 21, 2007, while serving in Iraq, Anderson's vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. He temporarily lost consciousness and was later diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. He also had orthopedic injuries. He said adaptive reconditioning activities have helped him with his recovery and transition back into the military.
“He just got his wings to be a medic on a helicopter, “ his mother said. “He’s always wanted to go into the medical field.”
Anderson said training for events like the Warrior Games keeps him physically fit.
“The Warrior Games lets us know that though we're injured, we can compete at high levels, be productive and achieve great feats,” he said.
Since his injuries, Anderson has continued his military career and encourages newly wounded soldiers who may not feel comfortable to leave their house to take those baby steps and try out for the team camps or to at least stay motivated. He said he stays motivated because of the support he receives from his family and friends.
“My family has given me a 100 percent support, and it has been tremendous,” he said.
Shinkle said her son is very compassionate.
“He always sees the best in everyone,” she said. “He has strong Christian faith.”
Star Beacon staff writer Shelley Terry contributed to this story.