Veterans set to compete in Paralympic Games

Retired U.S. Sailor Will Groulx rolls into position to defend against the Great Britain team during a match at the Paralympic Games in London Sept. 5, 2012. Groulx is set to compete in his fifth Paralympics this year in Tokyo, Japan. Photo credit Air Force Master Sgt. Sean M. Worrell

The 2020 Paralympic Summer Games are underway, with opening ceremonies taking place today in Tokyo, Japan.

The competition begins Aug. 25 and concludes Sept. 6 and nearly 4,400 athletes, representing 100 countries, will compete in the games.

A total of 18 U.S. veterans and three active-duty service members are among the 240 athletes representing Team USA at the Paralympic Games. That includes 14 Army veterans, four Navy veterans, two Marine veterans, and one Air Force veteran.

VA supports many of the athletes through a monthly stipend for disabled veterans training in Paralympic sports. Many of these veterans have also participated in VA’s national rehabilitation events.

Among those competing is five-time Paralympian and Navy veteran Will Groulx. He got his first taste of adaptive sports at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Groulx was rehabilitating at the Seattle VA Medical Center after a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed when his team of therapists introduced him to adaptive sports and quad rugby.

“When I was in the Navy, my goal was to travel around the world to serve my country and experience a lot of things,” Groulx said in a VA blog post. “Now, adaptive sports has helped me recover from my injury and allowed me to continue seeing the world.”

Groulx competed in his first National Veterans Wheelchair Games in New York in 2001. The Games are presented each year by VA and Paralyzed Veterans of America and recently celebrated their 40th anniversary.

Today, Groulx is one of the most accomplished Veterans in Paralympic history, having earned six medals in two sports (rugby and cycling), including two gold, two silver, and two bronze.

Two-time Paralympian and Army veteran Lisa “Lia” Coryell got her start in archery at VA’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. She attended the 2013 and 2014 clinics and said it was a turning point for her.

Two-time Paralympian and Army veteran Lisa “Lia” Coryell got her start in archery at VA’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. Photo credit Department of Veterans Affairs

“The Summer Sports Clinic was life-changing for me,” Coryell said. “For the first time, from the day I got off that bus, I was an athlete. They never called us clients, or participants or campers. We were athletes.”

Other veterans participating in the Games include:
Andre Shelby, Navy – archery
Tom Davis, Army – cycling
Freddie De los Santos, Army – cycling
Shawn Morelli, Army – cycling
Eric Ryan Pinney, Air Force – cycling
Monica Sereda, Army – cycling
Kelly Elmlinger, Army – paratriathlon
Eric Mcelvenny, Marine Corps – paratriathlon
Bradley Snyder, Navy – paratriathlon
Melissa Stockwell, Army – paratriathlon
Russell Gernaat, Navy – rowing
John Joss III, Army active duty – shooting
Kevin Nguyen, Army active duty – shooting
Elizabeth Marks, Army active duty – swimming
Michael Gallardo, Army – track and field
Luis Puertas, Army – track and field
Scot Severn, Army – track and field
Terry Hayes, Army – wheelchair fencing
Raymond Hennagir, Marine Corps – wheelchair rugby

NBCUniversal will provide 1,200 hours of coverage of the 2020 Paralympic Summer Games beginning Tuesday. Check here<