Editor's Note: Today's feature first appeared in our companion service, The Archery Wire (www.archerywire.com)
Reserve Master Sgt. Shawn Vosburg aims an arrow during the archery competition of the Army Trials on Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. Athletes in the trials were competing for spots on the Army's team during the upcoming 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games to be held in June on Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va.
EL PASO, Texas -- Steady breathing, sharp focus and a sense of calm helped one Soldier lock onto his target: a spot on the Army team for the 2015 Warrior Games.
During the Army Warrior Games trials, March 28 through April 3 on Fort Bliss, Texas, Master Sgt. Shawn "Bubba" Vosburg took gold in standing rifle and bronze in prone rifle in the men's open category. He also took fourth in archery. In wheelchair basketball, his team placed third. And during the Air Force trials last month on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, he medaled in archery.
Vosburg, an Army Reservist with the 356th Transportation Company in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion on Fort Bliss. Though he had never competed before, he hopes to be able to do so during the 2015 Warrior Games, June 19-28, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
Throughout the 2015 Warrior Games, wounded, ill and injured Service members and veterans from the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard will compete in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. Also participating in the games will be competitors from U.S. Special Operations Command and a team from the British military.
Vosburg said he picked up his first bow in December and said participating in sports such as shooting and archery helps him with the post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, leg and spine injuries he has sustained over the years and during his time in Iraq.
"You have to focus so hard when you're pulling the bow back to get any kind of consistency, the aim, the shot process, everything about it," he said. "When you're in that thought of making that shot or pulling the bow back or even in practice, you're so focused on that. It calms you. It takes your mind off everything else. It's an amazing thing. It's just you and your bow. It's the same thing with the rifle competition. When you start to feel anxious, you can literally watch your site bounce up and down as your heartbeat increases, so it makes you learn how to calm down and breathe."
Vosburg said that adaptive sports have helped him find his new normal and that others continue to inspire him.
"As bad as I feel sometimes, I see others who are in a whole lot worse shape off than I am, and they're still competing with a smile on their face every day, and it drives me to do even better," he said. "My family, friends, who also have PTSD - we talk a lot, we do things together, and we try to live the new norm. I've learned that disability is not an inability; it's just a new ability that you didn't know you had.
"When I was at Nellis, I watched a guy who was a double above-the-knee amputee talk about how he didn't truly know what he was capable of doing until he thought he was capable of doing nothing else. That drives me to fight through my injuries, my pain, and [to] do something besides sit around and mope about being hurt. Life's too short. I've never been one to give up, and this gives me another reason not to," he said.
Vosburg, who served 29 years total in the Army, with 15 years on active duty, said competing in the Army Trials has been the highlight of his Army career.
"Competing in these trials has changed my life forever," he said. "I have a whole new outlook and perspective on everything about life so I would recommend it to anyone. It's been incredible. I wouldn't trade this. This has been the greatest experience of my career out of everything I've done, whether it was tanks, infantry, transportation or being an instructor. Right here, seeing these people - they drive me to be better, it's amazing."
Vosburg encouraged Soldiers who are considering trying out for future Army Trials to give it a shot.
"Regain that bond of serving alongside your brothers and sisters in arms by competing in events like this with veterans, double and triple amputees," he said. "It just drives you to realize that your life's not over; it's just beginning. Find something new. Give yourself a reason to fight. You're going to make lifelong friendships. It's an incredible thing."
Whether he makes the team or not, Vosburg said he will continue to shoot and is going back to school to become a PTSD counselor so that he can help his fellow veterans.
- Shannon Collins, DOD News Service