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Soldier Mentors Others, Strives for Place on Army Team

Parks (far right) is thankful for the opportunity to act as a mentor at Fort Bliss. U.S. Army photo by Ronald Wolf.

In 2015, when he competed in the U.S. Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas, 1st Lt. Christopher Parks made it clear that participating meant something special to him. He was grateful for a second chance at life after an injury that cost him his leg and nearly his life.

Parks, who is assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Fort Hood, Texas, returned to Fort Bliss this year to prepare for the 2016 U.S. Army Trials. He wasn’t guaranteed a spot on the team but focused on team building and the opportunity to help mentor athletes who were trying out for the first time.

More than 100 wounded, ill, and injured soldiers and veterans went to Fort Bliss March 6-10 to train and compete in a series of athletic events including archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball. Parks trained in almost all events except running; he feels most comfortable playing wheelchair basketball and swimming.

The Army Trials were conducted by the Army Warrior Transition Command and will help determine who will get a spot on the 2016 Army team for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games.

Approximately 250 athletes, representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces will compete in the DoD Warrior Games June 14-22 at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

“The adaptive reconditioning program has enabled me to get back into the game and be something like the athlete I was before I was injured,” Parks said. “I have developed long-term and hopefully lifelong relationships with my fellow wounded warriors.”

He also mentioned the value of the healing arts, which is one of the adaptive reconditioning programs outside of athletic competition. The healing arts program focuses on using art therapy, particularly for soldiers who have sustained a traumatic brain injury or who have behavioral health issues, to express and communicate their emotions through art. The healing arts program was first developed at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Parks reported that participating in the healing arts program is often the first step that gets soldiers at the WTU out of their rooms and interacting with other soldiers.

Parks hopes to make the Army team for the DoD Warrior Games and has already been selected to be a member of the U.S. team for the Invictus Games to be held in Orlando, Florida, May 8-13.

“My short term-goal is to effectively transition to the civilian sector after retirement, while continuing to challenge myself in many Paralympic events and competitions,” he said. “I just recently was given a new prosthetic and am hoping to learn how to run on a blade prosthetic.”

Parks mentioned that one of his chief goals remains setting an example for his kids. An injury isn’t going to stop him, and he wants them to see that.

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This article was adapted from an original story by Ronald Wolf.