“Inspiring others and being a part of something bigger than myself”
Michael served with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard for 10 years. During his military service he deployed three times: Bosnia in 2002, Iraq in 2004 and Afghanistan in 2008.
On 18th June 2008 whilst on tour in Afghanistan, Michael’s patrol came under fire. He was seriously injured when a mortar landed 3 meters from him, resulting in a severe skull fracture, broken ribs and jaw and his left arm being amputated above the elbow.
Since his injury Michael has suffered from PTSD and battled with depression, alcoholism and anxiety. He rediscovered his love of sport as part of his rehabilitation and credits it with changing his outlook on life and giving him a future.
We caught up with Michael recently to hear more about the role sport, and in particular the Invictus Games, has played in his recovery journey. Here’s what he had to say…
What was it like taking part in the both the London 2014 and Orlando 2016 Games?
In the USA we have the Warrior Games – a sports event for wounded, injured and ill veterans which is inter-service, we compete against other branches of the military. I first took part in this in 2010. When I heard that Prince Harry was starting a global event like it, I knew I had to try out for the US team. I was lucky enough to compete in both the 2014 and 2016 Invictus Games. The experience not only provided me with lifelong friends (fellow Vets) who I can confide in, but it also gave me confidence and understanding of my ‘new normal’.
How has your experience of taking part in the Invictus Games helped you?
Competing in the Invictus Games has built my confidence and given me a whole new level of drive. It also provided me with an opportunity to show my wife’s family, and mine, what competing actually means to me and how important competitive sport is in my recovery. It has helped them to understand that it is more than just a hobby. On top of that it has enabled me to inspire others which is unbelievable!
Why did you choose to get involved with the opportunity to run in the Virgin London Marathon 2018 on behalf of the Invictus Games Foundation? And what do you hope to get out of it?
I have been running marathons since 2009 and have now completed the Boston, New York and Chicago marathons. I can’t wait for London!
I love being a part of inspiring others, and being a part of something much bigger than myself. Competing in the Invictus Games has given me this opportunity and running in the London Marathon for the Invictus Games Foundation will provide another chance. I will have fun and hopefully inspire other people to get involved and get active.
I made a lot of mistakes in my life – often took the hard road and made some bad decisions – opportunities like this allow me to make up for it and help educate others in a similar position.
So what’s next for you? What are your hopes for the future?
Being part of the Invictus Games has given me confidence and helped me to understand that sometimes sport can be much more than ‘just’ sport. It’s given me the drive to pursue a career as a physical education teacher and has also reignited my Paralympic ambitions in Para-Taekwondo. I’ve love to make it to Tokyo in 2020 as part of the US team.
I want to use sport to inspire others with, and without disabilities to find their ‘new normal’ and embrace life.