In 2016, Doctors told former Navy petty officer Ryan Shannon he would never run again after suffering a brain injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, partial paralysis of his left foot, and a chronic pain condition in his leg. Today, he’s the defending champion of two events in the Department of Defense’s 2017 Warrior Games.
After risking his life to extinguish a fire that another crew member had purposely caused aboard the submarine USS Pasadena, Shannon sustained many injuries and a traumatic brain disorder which forced him to medically retire from service in 2016. In addition to PTSD, Ryan Shannon developed an extremely rare medical condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Although not well-understood by medical professionals, CRPS is defined as a progressive chronic pain disorder caused by a corruption in the nervous system in which false signals of pain are recorded by nerve fibers and are sent to the brain, however, no injury is present or isn’t proportional to the original injury that was sustained. The pain can become so severe that it can render those afflicted by it to be bedridden and immobile. It roughly affects less than 200,000 people across the world and there is no cure.
Shannon thoroughly believed his life was over. He had no real ability to run that wasn’t hampered by his injuries and even the motivation to live his life was constantly interrupted by intermittent periods of dark depression brought on by the PTSD he suffered. He saw the world through a dark lens. Until he found new purpose in the form of the DOD’s Warrior Games.
Funded by the Department of Defense, the Warrior Games were created in 2010 to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors through spirited, friendly sport competitions. The competition is represented by all branches of the U.S. military including the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and U.S. Special Operations Command, as well as the U.K. Armed Forces and Australian Defence Force.
Approximately 265 wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans will compete in the 2017 Warrior Games and for the first time ever, the competition will be held in Chicago on June 30 through July 8. This will mark the first occurrence in which the Paralympic-style competition will be held entirely outside a military installation or a U.S. Olympic committee facility.
The games seek to provide wounded or injured service members and veterans the chance to grow physically and spiritually and to gain newfound confidence from the camaraderie gained through competition. It can help a wounded soldier rejuvenate the spark within their life or it can offer heroes like Ryan Shannon a second chance.
Even though he was plagued by a series of afflictions and was told by various doctors that he would never run again, Shannon decided he wouldn’t accept the destiny of a victim and decided instead to set a new course for his life. “I was on a downward slope,” Shannon said. “But I taught myself to run. I started slow, walking every day, and then I started jogging until eventually, I hit the track. Then I joined the Navy’s Safe Harbor Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program and I’ve been running ever since. It helped me bring myself out of a dark place. It gave me something to train for and a goal to work toward.”
In 2016, Shannon participated in the Warrior Games, held at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, and took home gold medals in swimming the 400 meters and 800 meters, and silver medals in the mile and 400 meter swimming relay. In September, he will compete with the combined armed forces’ Team USA at the Invitus Games in Toronto.
Aside from the DOD, the event can also be funded by private organizations who desire to sponsor the event. For the first time, Lifting Gear Hire will be sponsoring the games to help support the service members and veterans who had given so much to keep our country protected. “Upon learning that we could assist the Department of Defense with the Warrior Games, LGH was excited to give back to those like Ryan Shannon who have already given so much to all of us,” Patrick Clark, Rental Support Manager of Lifting Gear Hire, said. “The message of the games is so impactful. It comprises hundreds of personal journeys of courage and bravery through change, perseverance, and victory.”
“My motivation has always been my wife, Jasmine, and my two boys, Kamden and Kaeden,” Shannon stated. “They get to watch their dad compete when I could just as easily be sitting on the couch wasting away. But if I can show them now that I can overcome these things, later in life they’ll believe that they can overcome obstacles, too. I learned that my disabilities don’t have to define me. I can still define myself.”
To learn more about the DOD Warrior Games, visit: DODWarriorGames.com