When U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jack Stanfield woke up and walked into his living room in December 2015, the last thing he expected was the wake-up call that he didn’t know he needed.
Waiting for him was his 16-year-old son, Jack Stanfield III, and the Military Police.
“He[the younger Stanfield] said ‘I need you to sit down, shut up and listen to me,’” Stanfield said. “He came over and gave me a hug and said ‘Dad, this is going to be hard, but I want to check you into a mental hospital; I can’t suffer anymore, and I know you’re suffering more than I am.’”
Stanfield had woken up under his bed after having a trance-like nightmare, a common occurrence after suffering from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder sustained in the late 1990s in Kosovo and then having them exacerbated again in 2005 while serving in Fallujah, Iraq. He also shattered both kneecaps which needed reconstructive surgery.
Upon returning to his unit after his initial behavioral health treatment, he coordinated a meeting with his commanding general, who approved his transfer to the Wounded Warrior Battalion-West at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
It was there that Stanfield learned about adaptive sports.
“I’m an active participant in athletic sports, and being the oldest of six brothers, I have a competitive nature,” he said. “To be able to participate in sports that I thought were done [for me] after my injuries has just been a pleasure. It’s amazing to see what tragedies that all of us have gone through and have adapted.”
Stanfield’s participation led him to compete in the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where he competed in the sitting volleyball, cycling, swimming and field events, winning the bronze medal in cycling.
Adaptive sports has been the best rehabilitation that Stanfield could have asked for.
“I had one specific trainer who said ‘Jack, I’m putting you in the pool,’” he said. “She worked with me day-in and day-out to get me to do my exercises, and from that day forward, [I’ve been] committed even more.”
Since that fateful intervention in his living room, Stanfield has begun motivational speaking at schools and churches in addition to competing.
“I mainly try to educate the civilian population about the blind side of the war,” he said.
He explains that not all injuries are visible, and that those who suffer the internal traumas suffer just as much as those who have visible injuries.
He also speaks about his own traumas and what he went through, and how he has adapted and is now pursuing his life from a different angle, he added.
Stanfield is resolute when he says his son was instrumental in his recovery.
“He’s my caretaker; he pushes me; he medicates me; calls and checks on me,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Everything I do is because of him.”
Story by Staff Sgt. Jefferson VanWey