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Fighting Back: Warrior Games motivate Reserve Citizen Airman to rebound following accident

Warrior Games

Col. Jacquelyn Marty pilots a KC-10 as an Air Force Reservist. (Courtesy photo)

Warrior Games

Here is what is left of Col. Jacquelyn Marty’s car after a pickup truck slammed into it going more than 70 miles per hour. (Courtesy photo)

Fighting back

Col. Jacquelyn Marty poses with her sons, Nicholas, 8, and Michael, 1. Nicholas was riding with his mother when their car was totaled.(Courtesy photo)

Warrior Care/Games training Day 2

Jacqueline Marty, a Warrior CARE athlete, takes aim at a bullseye during an archery session at the adaptive sports camp at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., April 17. The base hosts the week-long Wound Warrior CARE event that helps recovering wounded, ill and injured military members through specific hands-on rehabilitative training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Col. Jacquelyn Marty, commander of the 713th Combat Operations Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, California, and a decorated KC-135 and Alaska Airlines pilot, will be stepping back on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy this month, more than 28 years after she became an academy graduate. This time, she will do so as an athlete competing in the 2018 Defense Department Warrior Games.

Marty will join more than 300 other athletes from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and a team from Special Operations Command, as well as athletes from the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. They will go head to head in 11 sports, including track and field, swimming, powerlifting and wheelchair basketball.

The games, which started in 2010, are a Paralympic-style competition and were designed to enhance the recovery of wounded, ill and injured service members by exposing them to adaptive sports. All of the athletes have overcome significant physical and psychological challenges, some not always visible to others.

That includes Marty.

In October 2015, Marty and her 5-year-old son were in a horrific car accident that altered the course of her life.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Marty said about that fateful day. “I was on the track for command and then everything changed.”

That day, while driving to a banquet honoring World War II veterans and the stand-up of the 489th Bomb Group in Abilene, Texas, she and her son were slowing at an intersection to turn left. There was no designated turn lane. Marty glanced in her rearview mirror and noticed a pickup truck about a mile and a half behind her.

Moments later everything went dark.

The driver of the truck was texting while driving and never saw Marty’s car. The truck slammed into Marty going more than 70 miles per hour.
Miraculously, her son was not injured.

Marty was not as fortunate. She awoke to paramedics asking her questions like, “Who’s the president?” She was not able to find the answers.

She had multiple injuries to her head, neck and shoulders and sustained a traumatic brain injury.

In the months that followed, Marty fought to find medical treatment and was denied care over and over.

“I went from being a successful multi-tasking mom, wife and Air Force officer to being incapable of simply caring for myself, let alone my family or my job responsibilities,” she said. “Being in constant pain and having lost my identity, I started a downhill slide into a deep depression.”

That’s when Marty said her leaders stepped in and got her the care she desperately needed. They checked on her regularly, helped her navigate the path to get her neurological and chiropractic care and when she hit roadblocks, they stepped in to get answers.

Marty’s Air Force Wounded Warrior care coordinator encouraged her to attend a Warrior Care event. At first, she refused.

“My injury wasn’t combat related,” Marty recalled feeling. “I didn’t think the program was for me.” However, she quickly found there were others like her experiencing similar challenges.

At the Warrior Care event, Marty was introduced to several charities to help her recovery and she was introduced to adaptive sports. Adaptive sports have been found to help with an individual’s recovery and rehabilitation because they introduce new ways to physically participate in exercise.

Marty has been training six days a week to prepare for the 2018 Warrior Games. She is competing in cycling and swimming.
When she doesn’t feel like training or thinks about giving up, she is encouraged by her teammates and her son, who went through that horrific night with her.

The colonel encourages everyone eligible to take advantage of all services and programs available to them.

Besides not texting and driving, she has several key takeaways from her accident and her Air Force Wounded Warrior care experience:
For leaders: “Support your Airmen. Without leadership’s support, healing is hindered, whereas having that support accelerates healing and saves lives.”

For Airmen: “We may be scratched, dented and damaged, but we will not be defeated.”

For anyone facing a challenge: “You are not alone. Do not be reluctant to reach out for help.”

For more information on the Warrior Games, check out
www.dodwarriorgames.com.