NAS PENSACOLA

2019 DoD Warrior Games' Senior Athlete Learns New Meaning of "Still in the Fight"

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Story by CDR James Stockman on 07/03/2019
By Cmdr. James Stockman, Naval Education and Training Command Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- After 10 days of blood, sweat and tears, the 2019 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games, hosted by U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, concluded June 30.

For a Las Vegas, Nevada native and the game's oldest and most senior participant, being a member of the 40-person Team Navy was a culmination of months of rehabilitation and hard work.

"My selection to Team Navy earlier this year was a bit unexpected given how recent my injury occurred, but it was an incredible honor to represent our Navy," said Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, commander, Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), who suffered an injury in spring 2018 causing him to adapt to wheelchair mobility. "The motto of this year's Warrior Games was Still in the Fight' and I saw firsthand the spirit and inspiration of adaptive athletes who put aside age and rank to perform at their personal best levels."

Cozad competed in four DoD Warrior Game events wheelchair tennis, seated shot put and discus, rowing and hand cycling earning a gold medal in the men's seated discus.

"As a rookie,' I really did not have any expectations of earning a medal," said Cozad. "Given the fact that just over a year ago I was still in the hospital and unable to roll over in bed without assistance, that medal presentation was pretty motivating."

However, Cozad pointed out that the DoD Warrior Games is not about winning or the final medal count. The games are more about having an opportunity to demonstrate how you have physically improved, building self-confidence and showing others what you can do.

"Although I joke that you will have to pry my gold medal from my cold, lifeless fingers, I am most proud of achieving personal bests in each of my events," said Cozad. "A big part of any rehabilitation program is establishing incremental goals for yourself and working to conquer those goals. Adaptive sports and more specifically, Warrior Games are a perfect opportunity to establish and meet those goals."

According to Cozad, the DoD Warrior Games and adaptive sports provide an essential opportunity for any wounded, seriously ill or injured service member to integrate into an established program that encourages personal goal setting, fitness, individual recovery and most importantly, interaction with other individuals with similar medical conditions or injury recovery challenges.

"For many, the games and adaptive sports provide an essential opportunity for purpose and help overcome the inevitable psychological hurdles associated with coming to terms with very different new normal,'" said Cozad. "The face-to-face interaction and personal relationships with other wounded warriors is what I consider the secret sauce' learning lessons and recovery techniques from those who have been in the program for some time. There is no replacement to having someone who has been there, done that' as a personal mentor along the path of recovery and reintegration."

Cozad noted that the most overlooked aspect of the Wounded Warrior program is the family and caregiver support that is essential to any recovery and reintegration effort. The Navy Wounded Warrior program provides family support that includes resources, networking and educational opportunities.

"I know in my case, when I returned home from nearly six weeks of hospitalization, my wife became a combination of nurse, personal assistant and caregiver," said Cozad. "During those first few weeks, I could not get out of bed without her help. She was literally forced to put her life on hold to help me at home in a 24/7 capacity. Every other wounded warrior has a similar story - whether that caregiver is a spouse or parent; they play an invaluable role that is often overlooked in this program."

Approximately 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans participated in the 2019 DoD Warrior Games. The athletes represented the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command. Athletes from the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defense Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Armed Forces of the Netherlands, and the Danish Armed Forces also competed.

Cozad and Team Navy athletes represented the more than 4,000 Sailors and Coast Guardsman with a serious illness or injury who are currently receiving support through the Navy Wounded Warrior program. Since its creation, the program has coordinated the non-medical care and resources for over 8,500 Sailors and Coast Guardsmen and their families and caregivers.

Enrollment in the Navy Wounded Warrior program is not limited to those with combat wounds. The program also supports those with serious illnesses both mental and physical conditions and injuries sustained in shipboard, training or liberty accidents. Support can include developing Comprehensive Recovery Plans; addressing pay and personnel issues; connecting to family resources; offering adaptive athletic opportunities; and linking to education and training benefits.

To learn about enrollment, call the 24/7 toll-free line at 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997), email navywoundedwarrior@navy.mil, or log onto www.navywoundedwarrior.com.

For the latest news about the DoD Warrior Games, visit https://dodwarriorgames.com/ and follow Team Navy on Navy Wounded Warrior- Safe Harbor's Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Navywoundedwarrior

For more on NETC, visit http://www.public.navy.mil/netc/ and http://www.facebook.com/netcpao/.

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