A new purpose: The Warrior Games

JBLM soldier will be base’s sole representative, competing this summer in shot put and discus

Staff writerMay 1, 2013 

Sgt. Josh Andrew is on the cusp of big changes at home and in his career. The Washington state soldier is preparing for a second baby even as the injured veteran looks to leave the Army by the end of this summer.

First, though, Andrew has a simple goal that he hopes will propel him through the transitions he’s about to make:

He wants to come home with gold next month from the Warrior Games, the Defense Department’s annual athletic competition for wounded and injured service members in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Just training to participate in the shot put and discus competitions “makes me feel like I don’t have anything wrong with me,” Andrew said. “It makes me feel strong again.”

The 26-year-old soldier from Castle Rock is assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Warrior Transition Battalion, where he’s receiving treatment for repeated knee injuries as well as for the effects of concussions he suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The unit contains soldiers coping with long-term illnesses, injuries or war wounds. Some return to active-duty military service; others receive medical retirements and leave the Army.

Most years, a handful of soldiers from the unit head to Colorado for the Warrior Games. This time, Andrew is the only representative from Lewis-McChord’s warrior transition unit.

He’s the Army’s favorite to win the shot put contest; he puts the 13-pound ball 61-66 feet, with a high of 68 feet.

But he’s mindful that he hasn’t seen his rivals from other military service branches.

“I try to stay humble,” he said.

Andrew found himself in the Warrior Transition Battalion in August after an abbreviated tour in Afghanistan with the Germany-based 172nd Infantry Brigade.

Hauling his rucksack and gear up and down peaks east of Kabul ripped up his knees to such an extent that his unit sent him home for surgeries. He repeatedly dislocated his knee during that tour.

A few close calls with enemy mortars and rocket propelled grenades in Afghanistan and during his 2008-09 tour in Iraq didn’t help, either. They shook him up and left him with memory problems.

Today, he does memory exercises to help him rebuild that lost capacity.

Those ailments compelled Andrew and his family to think about life after the Army earlier than they might have otherwise. He’d like to pursue a career in law enforcement when he leaves the military later this year.

His wife, Megan, recently moved home to Southwest Washington with her family to get ready for the baby. They also have a 5-year-old son, Jaxson. Andrew is living in the Warrior Transition Battalion’s barracks at JBLM until his discharge.

He sought out the battalion’s adaptive sports offerings soon after he got there, lobbying to participate in the Warrior Games.

They include sports such as swimming and cycling. They’ve been championed by warrior transition commanders who encouraged soldiers to stay in shape during a challenging period of their lives.

Andrew found his niche in track and field. It was one of his sports from high school, along with football and basketball.

He said the training helped him increase his range of motion and recover. Still, his back and knees scream from time to time.

“You push it, and then you listen to your body,” he said.

The greatest benefit of training for the games, however, comes in the renewed sense of purpose it gives Andrew while navigating an unclear path between the military and civilian worlds.

“Something like this, it makes you feel like you belong,” he said during a workout Monday at Lewis-McChord.

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/military

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