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PEARL HARBOR (March 10, 2015) Retired Navy Airman Sadie Strong participates in the archery trials during the 2015 Wounded Warrior Pacific Trials held at historic Hangar 54 on Ford Island, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gabrielle Joyner/Released)
PEARL HARBOR (March 10, 2015) Retired Navy Airman Sadie Strong participates in the archery trials during the 2015 Wounded Warrior Pacific Trials held at historic Hangar 54 on Ford Island, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gabrielle Joyner/Released)

Navy Wounded Warrior Competes on U.S. Team in Invictus Games

By Sadie Strong
Navy Wounded Warrior enrollee and Invictus Games participant

PEARL HARBOR (March 10, 2015) Retired Navy Airman Sadie Strong participates in the archery trials during the 2015 Wounded Warrior Pacific Trials held at historic Hangar 54 on Ford Island, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gabrielle Joyner/Released)
PEARL HARBOR (March 10, 2015) Retired Navy Airman Sadie Strong participates in the archery trials during the 2015 Wounded Warrior Pacific Trials held at historic Hangar 54 on Ford Island, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gabrielle Joyner/Released)

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. My name is Sadie Strong and I am Invictus.

I am a retired U.S. Navy airman. Shortly before retiring, I was contacted by the Navy Wounded Warrior team and offered the chance to participate in adaptive sports. Shooting and becoming part of a team again literally saved my life. I was given the amazing opportunity to represent not only the Navy, but the United States, in the 2016 Invictus Games. I remember getting the phone call saying that I was selected to be a part of Team U.S. It was such an honor to be considered for the team.

I am so excited to meet other veteran athletes from around the world and be able to share such a great experience with all of them. My family has played a huge part in my life. I know I am extremely lucky and blessed with the family I have. My dad is my rock and my mom is my best friend. My little brother is always there to cheer me up. From day one, my family has been there for me. Even when times got unbelievably tough, they stood by me no matter what. I called my mom immediately to share the news. I’m almost positive she jumped higher than I did when I found out I had made the team. She said, “I am so proud of you. Does this mean that I get to get to meet the Prince? Just kidding, but I am so excited and proud for you!”

Soon enough the news spread through my family and my town that I was competing. It was time to get focused. I needed to bump up my training for this competition. Coach Jesse, the U.S. archery coach for Invictus, hooked me up with a few great people in my hometown who trained with me. Eric Burkett and his coach, Larry Hix, took me in with open arms. Eric was actually the gold medalist in archery for the 2014 Invictus Games. I will be forever grateful for all the training they did with me. I spent a lot of days at the range in preparation for the games. Eric helped me tremendously with my form and my mental game. “Every arrow serves a purpose,” he said. Not every arrow was a 10, but that’s okay because it just means we were working on form and being comfortable, and also learning from past mistakes.

QUANTICO, Va. (June 26, 2015) Retired U.S. Navy Airman Sadie Strong smiles after winning the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games shooting competition at Lejeune Field. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy A. Turner/Released)
QUANTICO, Va. (June 26, 2015) Retired U.S. Navy Airman Sadie Strong smiles after winning the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games shooting competition at Lejeune Field. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy A. Turner/Released)

 

While I was working with them, we shot about an hour away from my home. Living out of my car became a bad habit of mine for the last month or so. I was constantly running between college, my job and training. Some days I didn’t have time to actually go to the range, so I would go to my parent’s house and set up a target in their back yard. On rainy days I would sit on my couch while watching Netflix and bring a target inside of my house. It was to build my strength with the bow and practice my form. During every commercial, I would shoot at the bag target below my TV.

I have put in so many hours into competing in the Invictus Games. I have taken it very seriously, and I can’t wait to represent my country and compete in such an incredible national event. Truly I am so honored and humbled to be able to participate.

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.” Something great has definitely happened through archery. I am living through my struggles and preparing myself for the greatest competition I have ever competed in, one arrow at a time.

I am ready for the 2016 Invictus Games.

 

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