WEST POINT, N.Y. — Over the hum of fluorescent lights, the distinctive “thwip” of arrows being loosed echo through Gillis Field House at the United States Military Academy here, followed by the “thwap” of the arrows hitting the target.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Christopher McGleinnass, an Orinda, California native, readies his bow for archery practice at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games, a paralympic-style event for wounded, ill and injured Service members from all branches of service.
McGleinnass, a member of the All-Marine Team competing in both archery and shooting, suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries and a chronic case of Meniere’s Disease, which is an inner-ear condition where he suffers from constant vertigo.
“One of the things I’ve learned from doing archery and shooting is that it’s really helped me develop my coping skills, especially archery,” he said.
Participating in adaptive sports such as archery has given McGleinnass the chance to use the relaxation techniques he’s learned during his rehabilitation in a real-world scenario.
“When you get to full draw, you can only hold for so long,” he said. “If I feel things moving and my body tensing up, it gives me an opportunity to practice those things I’ve learned in therapy.”
The Warrior Games have been designed to use adaptive sports to give Service members and veterans a way to supplement their rehabilitation in fun and effective ways.
“I feel like I’ve made more progress doing the adaptive sports through recreational therapy than with traditional therapy,” said McGleinass.
Jessie White, the venue manager for the archery event, has taken steps in order to ensure that the competition runs smoothly and at an Olympic-level caliber.
White, a U.S. Army wounded veteran, competed in the first four Warrior Games as well as the first Invictus Games in London and has drawn on his past experiences in order to make the event as professional as possible.
“The judge system I brought in runs the top competitions in the U.S.,” he said. “Everything here is going to be top-notch and ready for them to go.”