By Retired U.S. Navy Airman Brett Parks
In 2012, Parks sustained a gunshot wound after coming to the aid of a person being robbed. He is enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor, which assists seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen.
The sun peers over the horizon, sending the morning’s first rays into my room. Eyes heavy and head groggy, I glance down at my prosthetic beside my bed and dread another day with my new lifelong companion. Not even two years ago, I laid face down in a parking lot, bleeding out from a gunshot wound in my abdomen and praying to God I’d get to meet my daughter who still had two months to go in her mother’s belly. Not even two years ago, the doctors told my wife that I only had six hours to live and to start making preparations. Not even two years ago, I woke up from my coma to find the lower part of my right leg amputated. Not even two years later, here I am – in a staring contest with an inanimate object that seems to be waiting for me to blink.
With a deep sigh, I reach for my leg and begin the process of making myself functional. The sounds of my two children playing in their room echo throughout the hallway as I walk in to greet them. This is why I get out of bed every morning. This is why I survived. After hugs to my son and daughter and a kiss to my wife, I walk out the door and head for the gym. Workout gear in tow and head clearing from a long and sleepless night, I think through my workout plan. It’s leg day today. I should call it more like hell day. Squat, snatch, clean, jerk and deadlift are just a few lifts slate for today… and I always throw in an extra set here and there I’ve aptly dubbed “The Gold Medal Set.” Anybody can lift hard, but not anybody can lift harder than me – especially on one foot.
After I’ve completed my workout (and spent five minutes hovering over the garbage can, anticipating the sight of my last meal), I pack up my gear and head to the pool. Late in the morning, it’s a balmy 93 degrees in the swamp they call Jacksonville. The pool is a welcome relief. But I’m not here to relax; I’m here to train. Up and back, up and back, work on form, breathe, up and back, correct your form, breathe, up and back, sprint, sprint, sprint, sprint. I’m in the pool for what feels like hours. My muscles burn and my heart’s beating out of my chest, but I’ve only been in for 30 minutes. I’ve got to AT LEAST double it.
I only have a few more days of training left. There are only a few more days until I board a plane and head to London for the 2014 Invictus Games. I am honored to be representing the U.S. this year and know what this means to wounded warriors everywhere. I have been given the opportunity to represent the fighting spirit of our military, and I refuse to squander it. I’ve been selected to swim the 100-meter freestyle, 50-meter freestyle and 50-meter backstroke. I’ve also been chosen to throw discus and shot put and have been selected to play on the sitting volleyball team. Suffice it to say, my plate is full.
This is going to be my first international trip so I want to make it count. I have been blessed and honored to be selected to serve my country in this capacity. Broken doesn’t mean broke. My fellow competitors and I are evidence of this. The new life I live isn’t for me. I live for my God. I live for my family, and I live for my country.
The Invictus Games is more than just a competition. It’s a quest to bring out the very best within ourselves and inspire others to do so as well. For this reason, I train. And when the sun dips below the horizon, I will take my leg off and begin my sleepless night planning my next training day. London, here I come.