Tag Archives: Orlando

WCAP NCO named to Impact25 list of women who have made a difference

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

It’s been a momentous year for Sgt. Elizabeth Marks.

The combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program swimmer spent the summer garnering international headlines for a grand gesture while winning four gold medals in swimming at the Invictus Games. That led to an appearance at the ESPYs, the awards show that recognizes sports’ highest achievements, to receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service. She followed that up by smashing a world record and winning two medals during her first trip to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The list of hardware is already impressive. But it received another addition earlier this week.

Marks was named to the ESPN Women’s Impact25 Athletes and Influencers list Tuesday. The list highlights the top 25 women who made the greatest impact in sports and the societies in which they live. Marks joined names such as Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who was also the magazine’s Woman of the Year; Kathryn Smith, the National Football League’s first female full-time coach; and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

“It’s extremely special to even be mentioned,” Marks said on Twitter about being an Impact25 nominee.

Her unveiling as an honoree was marked by an essay written by Prince Harry. The British royal was at the center of the moment that opened the world’s eyes to Marks.

In May, she made international headlines for her gesture at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

Marks was decorated with her fourth gold medal at the Games by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 26-year-old gave the award back.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff. Her request was honored June 1.

“This is an incredible achievement by any standards,” Prince Harry wrote about Marks’ appearance in the Impact25 list. “And I know this is how she wants to be defined, by her achievements and her abilities. But as an Army sergeant wounded in service to her country, her journey to get to this point has been remarkable. To me she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women. Using sport to fight back from injury in the most remarkable way, she sums up what the Invictus Games spirit is all about.

For Marks, her ordeal in 2014 wasn’t the first time she had to endure an arduous hospital stay. In 2010, after suffering devastating injuries in Iraq, she grew nervous about the words being bandied about her such as “end of service” or “retirement.” Marks called her father to vent her frustrations. The former Marine told his daughter to write what was most important to her on a piece of paper. She scrawled “FFD” in pencil on a torn sheet of paper. The acronym stood for “fit for duty.” She was deemed fit for duty on July 3, 2012, after several painful surgeries and exhaustive rehabilitation. Marks has not stopped trying to live up to the notion, resuming her job as a medic while also competing for WCAP.

She was back in the pool one month after her ordeal in England. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Less than two years later, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division.

“I was told it’d be six months before I got into a pool again,” Marks told the audience at the ESPYs where she became the first active-duty Soldier to receive the Pat Tillman Award. “I got into a pool about a month out of my coma. Without those physicians, without their service, I would’ve died. I hope that my service could eventually mean that to someone.”

Marks received a standing ovation after accepting the award on the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She thanked her father and the Pat Tillman Foundation for turning an “absolute tragedy into a triumph.” She also thanked her fellow injured service members throughout the world for their support. She said any success she found at the Rio Paralympics would be because of them.

And find success she did. Marks broke her own world record in the breaststroke to win the gold medal. She then had a heroic swim in her leg of the 4×100 medley relay to help the Americans win a bronze medal after getting off to a difficult start.

The feat seemed to cap off a storied sports year for Marks. But this week proved otherwise. And that should suit her desire to inspire her fellow Soldiers just fine.

WCAP NCO forced to skip last race, but still closes strong at Rio Paralympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks bowed out of what would have been her final race at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

But that didn’t rob fans of seeing her finish her inaugural Games in impressive fashion.

The Paralympic swimmer from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, said Saturday on Twitter that she would not participate in the SM8 200-meter individual medley competition, which was scheduled for that day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, due to an undisclosed medical issue. Her message exhibited the unselfishness that has garnered Marks so much attention this year.

“I didn’t have my best to give, but another girl might,” the tweet stated.

But Marks’ best was definitely on display the previous night.

On Friday, Marks swam the second leg of the women’s 4×100 medley relay. The Americans finished in third place behind Great Britain and Australia. While the finish wasn’t golden, the fact that the U.S. team was able to reach the podium at all was an impressive feat given its difficult start. And Marks began turning the tide.

Hannah Aspden struggled as she swam the opening backstroke leg of the medley. She fell about five meters behind the pace of the leaders and came to the end of her 100-meter swim in fifth place, with sixth-place Japan not far behind. That’s when Marks went to work.

The 26-year-old swam the breaststroke leg, the same event in which she had already claimed a Paralympic gold medal. Marks’ effort during the medley was frenzied. She managed to speed into fourth place past the Netherlands before the turn. From there she closed the gap on third-place Canada to less than 10 meters. Marks did this despite being in the pool with five swimmers who compete in faster disability classifications. She would finish the leg with a time of 1:28.52, not even a half-second slower than her winning time of 1:28.13 in the SB7 100-meter breaststroke the previous weekend, which set a new world record.

It was prime position for her teammates Elizabeth Smith and Michelle Konkoly to wrest third-place away from Canada. It also ended up being the end to her time in Brazil. Marks finished the Games with a gold and bronze medal, fitting hardware for a Soldier and competitor who has been in the headlines throughout the year.

Marks gained international attention earlier this year after asking Prince Harry to take one of the gold medals she won at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida. Marks wanted the British royal to give the medal to the English hospital that saved her life. In 2014, while traveling to the Invictus Games in London, Marks fell ill and required a lifesaving procedure at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. She missed the Games that year, but said she was lucky to come home alive. Offering her medal to the hospital was the best way she could say “thank you.” The gesture caught the world’s attention, culminating with her being awarded the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs in July.

Her ordeal in England wasn’t the first time Marks underwent a stint in the hospital. She suffered bilateral hip injuries while deployed to Iraq as a combat medic in 2010. Those injuries are what pushed Marks to the pool in the first place. She has previously stated that she hopes her accomplishments can offer faith and optimism to her fellow wounded Soldiers.

Now, armed with medals earned on the grandest stage in sports, it appears Marks will remain a beacon of hope for quite some time.

Prince Harry returns WCAP NCO’s gold medal to British hospital that saved her life

NCO JOURNAL STAFF REPORT

A Soldier-athlete’s unprecedented request has been fulfilled.

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, a combat medic and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program based at Fort Carson, Colorado, asked Prince Harry to deliver one of the gold medals she won at last month’s Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, to the staff of the British hospital that saved her life.

Today, the British royal made good on that promise, presenting Marks’ gold medal from the 100-meter freestyle event to doctors and nurses from Cambridge’s Papworth Hospital during a ceremony at Kensington Palace in London.

Marks won four gold medals in the swimming competition of the 2016 Invictus Games. Her final medal was presented by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 25-year-old gave the award back, a grand gesture that made international headlines.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to give the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff.

The BBC reports that the prince told those assembled Wednesday how Marks had described Papworth as “undoubtedly the best place for someone having this condition.”

“From all of us, it’s just a huge, huge thank you to all of you,” Prince Harry said.

A Papworth spokesman told the BBC they were hoping to launch an Elizabeth Marks Fund to help finance the development of equipment and support patients treated at the hospital’s critical care unit where the medal will go on display.

Two months after leaving the British hospital, Marks broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Earlier this year she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division during the first day of the Jimi Flowers Classic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, serving notice to the world that she will be a force at this year’s Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is currently ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke.

Marks joined the Army at age 17 in July 2008 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Her goal was to care for injured Soldiers as a combat medic, a role she carried out until she was injured.

WCAP NCO asks Prince Harry to give her Invictus gold medal to hospital that saved her life

NCO JOURNAL STAFF REPORT

U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks won four gold medals in the swimming competition during the third day of the 2016 Invictus Games on Wednesday.

Her final medal was presented by Prince Harry, the British royal who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 25-year-old combat medic and member of the U.S. World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, did something unprecedented — she tried to give the award back.

U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, right, appears with Prince Harry on an ESPN broadcast discussing the 2016 Invictus Games. Marks made international headlines Wednesday after asking the British royal to give one of her gold medals to the English hospital staff that saved her life two years ago. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)
U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, right, appears with Prince Harry on an ESPN broadcast discussing the 2016 Invictus Games. Marks made international headlines Wednesday after asking the British royal to give one of her gold medals to the English hospital staff that saved her life two years ago. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)

Marks wanted Prince Harry to give the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff.

“It’s the only thing I could give to thank them for saving my life,” Marks said before sending a message to the hospital. “I will never be able to repay you, but what you are doing is wonderful. I gave one of my medals to Prince Harry and hope it will find its way back to them.”

After her harrowing ordeal Marks immediately went back to work to reclaim her form. Two months after leaving the hospital she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Earlier this year she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division during the first day of the Jimi Flowers Classic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, serving notice to the world that she will be a force at this year’s Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Marks joined the Army at age 17 in July 2008 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Her goal was to care for injured Soldiers as a combat medic, a role she carried out until she was injured. Despite her altered path in the Army, Marks hopes her efforts continue to help and motivate Soldiers.

“I don’t step onto a block or go into a pool without thinking of all my battle buddies from all around the world who suffer every day,” she said Wednesday. “I never go into a pool to win a medal, just to do them proud.”

The Invictus Games conclude today with various events broadcast live from Orlando, Florida, on ESPN2 and online at ESPN3.com. The United States team included 26 NCOs on its roster.

26 NCOs part of U.S. service member, veteran contingent competing at Invictus Games

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sgt. Stefan LeRoy was on a routine patrol June 7, 2012, with a small group of cavalry scouts in Afghanistan when disaster struck.

Two of LeRoy’s fellow Soldiers — his friends — detonated a pair of improvised explosive devices. LeRoy rushed to his fallen comrades, picking one of them up to take him back to safety. In his dash to the helicopter, he stepped on another IED. LeRoy lost both of his legs, but not his indefatigable spirit.

Three months after the blast, LeRoy started cycling as a way to stay fit and motivated. His father’s love of cycling contributed heavily in his recovery.

“My dad is a big cyclist, and we were able to cycle together,” LeRoy told the Army News Service in April 2015. “He was able to do it with me, and that made me more dedicated than I would have been otherwise.”

It wasn’t long before LeRoy began competing, and succeeding, against fellow Soldiers in his newfound sport. This week, his talent is on display during the 2016 Invictus Games. Now retired, LeRoy is one of 26 U.S. Army NCOs taking part in the international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete.

The Invictus Games are the brainchild of Prince Harry of Wales, who was inspired to create the event after watching the 2013 U.S. Warrior Games in Colorado. The name Invictus is Latin for “Unconquered, Undefeated.” The prince’s aim was for the Games to “demonstrate the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and demonstrate life beyond disability.” The first edition of the Invictus Games was held Sept. 10-14, 2014, at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

This year’s Games are being held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Soldiers and veterans from all U.S. military branches will compete against counterparts from 14 countries in the event, which kicked off Sunday with an opening ceremony that was nationally televised on ESPN2. The network will broadcast more than 40 hours of events on its ESPN2 channel and online at ESPN3.com during the next four days. Competition concludes Thursday and the closing ceremonies will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. EST.

For LeRoy, the competition is more than another hurdle in his recovery, it is a way to honor his fellow fallen Soldiers.

“In the military, we know that the strength of one comes from the strength of many,” he said in an Invictus Games video. “We never leave a fellow Soldier behind. I lost my legs in Afghanistan carrying others to safety. Now it is their memory, their courage, their sacrifice that carries me. And I will never let them down.”

NCOs at the Invictus Games

A list of Army noncommissioned officers competing with the United States team at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida:

Staff Sgt. Ashley Anderson: Swimming.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Armstead: Wheelchair basketball.

Sgt. 1st Class Allan Armstrong: Swimming, track and field, cycling.

Staff Sgt. Robert Brown: Track and field.

Master Sgt. Rhoden Galloway: Swimming.

Retired Sgt. Robbie Gaupp: Track and field, sitting volleyball.

Retired Staff Sgt. Randi Gavell: Swimming and track and field.

Staff Sgt. Robert Green: Track and field.

Retired Sgt. Sean Hook: Track and field, archery, indoor rowing.

Retired Staff Sgt. Michael Kacer: Swimming, track and field, indoor rowing.

Sgt. 1st Class Katie Kuiper: Track and field, cycling.

Retired Sgt. Stefan LeRoy: Swimming, track and field.

Sgt. Ryan Major: Track and field, indoor rowing, wheelchair rugby.

Sgt. Ana Manciaz: Archery, swimming, cycling, track and field.

Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Marks: Swimming.

Retired Staff Sgt. Robert Matthews: Track and field, cycling.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhall: Swimming, track and field.

Retired Staff Sgt. Billy Meeks: Archery, indoor rowing.

Sgt. Kawaiola Nahale: Swimming.

Retired Staff Sgt. Tim Payne: Swimming, track and field.

Staff Sgt. Zed Pitts: Track and field, cycling.

Retired Staff Sgt. Alexander Shaw: Indoor rowing, sitting volleyball.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith: Track and field.

Retired Sgt. Monica Southall: Track and field, indoor rowing, powerlifting, wheelchair rugby.

Sgt. Aaron Stewart: Cycling, swimming.

Retired Sgt. Nicholas Titman: Swimming, track and field.

Click here to view the full ESPN broadcast schedule.