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Medically Retired Soldier Encourages Others to ‘Just Try’

By Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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TORONTO, Sept. 25, 2017 — Whether it’s adding another medal to his collection or meeting his comrades for another friendly competition on the tennis or basketball courts this week, Roosevelt Anderson, a medically retired U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant, said he looked forward to competing at the third Invictus Games here.

Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, shakes hands with Roosevelt Anderson, a medically retired Army Special Forces sergeant, after a tennis match at the Invictus Games in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017.
Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, shakes hands with Roosevelt Anderson, a medically retired Army Special Forces sergeant, after a tennis match at the Invictus Games in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. DoD photo by Marine Corps Sgt Cedric R. Haller II
Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, shakes hands with Roosevelt Anderson, a medically retired Army Special Forces sergeant, after a tennis match at the Invictus Games in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. Invictus Games 2017: Wheelchair Tennis
Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, shakes hands with Roosevelt Anderson, a medically retired Army Special Forces sergeant, after a tennis match at the Invictus Games in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. DoD photo by Marine Corps Sgt Cedric R. Haller II

“It’s pretty warm, but I dreamt all year for this and then for it to be in the middle of Toronto with this public crowd, it’s just amazing,” he said. “It’s everything I expected and more. Toronto has been amazing. Prince Harry has been amazing for putting this event on.”

More than 550 wounded, ill and injured service members from 17 nations will compete here in 12 sporting events, including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball Sept. 23-30.

Anderson takes to the tennis courts again today after competing in doubles wheelchair tennis Sept. 23, and joins the rest of the American team for wheelchair basketball later this week.

Overcoming Injury

Anderson injured his back and became a paraplegic after a motorcycle accident in 2012. He said he uses sports for recovery and therapy. At last year’s Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, he took home three gold and two silver medals and said he hopes to add golf to his sports list for next year’s games.

Anderson said the camaraderie among his team members and athletes from other countries has been great. “It was an honor to serve for the US and with my comrades and our allies,” the former OH-58 Kiowa helicopter mechanic said. “I’ve been with Invictus since London, so I see a lot of the guys that I met four years ago and a lot of new faces.”

He added, “I make a point to talk to them because I remember my first year. You don’t know what to expect; the nerves, you’ve been training all year. You get to the moment and all these people, a lot of these people aren’t used to that, so I make sure I speak to them and let them know that hey, this is fun.”

Roosevelt Anderson prepares to return a serve during a wheelchair tennis match.
Roosevelt Anderson, a medically retired former Army Special Forces sergeant, competes in doubles wheelchair tennis against Canada during the third Invictus Games at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. Canada won 6-5 in a close match. DoD photo by Roger L. Wollenberg
Roosevelt Anderson prepares to return a serve during a wheelchair tennis match. Returning Serve
Roosevelt Anderson, a medically retired former Army Special Forces sergeant, competes in doubles wheelchair tennis against Canada during the third Invictus Games at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. Canada won 6-5 in a close match. DoD photo by Roger L. Wollenberg

Canada

Anderson said the Canadians have been very welcoming to the American competitors. “They’re so nice and courteous,” he said. “I’ve walked downtown everywhere and asked for directions. Everyone is so willing to help and ask, ‘Can I take pictures with you?’ I feel like I’m some Paralympian. I’m just a soldier enjoying sports. Toronto has been wonderful.”

Anderson said that anyone who gets the chance should witness the Invictus Games. “All of these athletes here, the reason they’re competing is because they have a mission and that mission drives them to be better every day,” he said.

He also encouraged disabled service members who may be considering adaptive sports to give it a try.

“I literally tried everything; even things that were difficult to do but then I found everything I was good at,” Anderson said. “I encourage people to just try things differently. Leave your home; leave your bubble. Get out of your environment and try something different because you never know what you’re made of.”

“Sometimes we get caught up in our everyday working routine, and we forget that we’re so creative and we’re so knowledgeable and the human body is just amazing,” he said. “Try things, talk with people and get out of your bubble -- just try.”

(Follow Shannon Collins on Twitter: @CollinsDoDNews)


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