Wounded Warrior competes for goldPublished 7:38pm Saturday, May 11, 2013
By Shannon Collins
Special to the News-Herald
The daughter of a Suffolk couple knows how an explosion, crash, gunshot, sickness or emotional trauma can push a military service member to a place of unfamiliarity — the sidelines. Through the healing process, Paralympic sport gives many survivors the chance to prove anyone can overcome disability.
Army Sgt. Monica Southall, daughter of Wilbert and Barbara Southall of Suffolk, is competing for the Army team during the 2013 Warrior Games this week at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Throughout the seven-day event, wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, as well as some from Special Operations Command and a team from the British military, will compete in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.
Southall is competing for the gold in field and sitting volleyball. In 2010, she earned a gold medal for seated shot put, and in 2012, she competed and won a gold medal for standing shot put and sitting volleyball. She hopes to bring home gold in all of her sports this year.
“I’m very proud to represent the Army and my hometown,” Southall said. “I believe I will win gold in all of my events, and the Army will win the commander’s cup this year.”
Southall is a 1997 Nansemond River High School graduate. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in 2001 from Virginia State University, Petersburg.
Southall said she appreciates her family’s support and is excited her mom and aunt will be attending this year’s games to show their support.
While serving in Afghanistan, in September 2009, Southall sustained injuries to her shoulders, lower back and right knee and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after someone has gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involved the threat of injury or death.
She said her biggest challenge has been pain management, because she deals with pain daily. She said adaptive sports gave her a new outlook on life.
“Before I went to Afghanistan, I played basketball, volleyball and softball,” she said. “When I got back, I sat in my room and was depressed. Adaptive sports and the Warrior Games gave me a reason to want to do something other than sit around and feel sorry for myself. The Warrior Games gave me the chance to be active and competitive again.”
Southall encourages newly wounded warriors who may not feel comfortable leaving their homes to take those baby steps and be active.
“Remain patient and surround yourselves with a strong support system. Work with your current injuries, instead of against them,” she said. “Get active again. You can do it.”
Southall said public acceptance is also big for wounded warriors.
“Wounded soldiers need and appreciate your support,” she said. “Something as small as a ‘thank you’ means a great deal.”