Soldier from Suffolk wins gold in Warrior Games

Published 9:28 pm Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sgt. Monica Southall, a native of Suffolk, trains for a sitting volleyball competition in the 2012 Warrior Games. The contests for injured military members were held this week. Southall, on the Army team, won gold in a track and field event.

By S.L. Standifird

Special to the News-Herald

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. — Sgt. Monica Y. Southall is a soldier. She wears the same uniform and carries the same demeanor, same grit and same determination as the countless others soldiers across the active and retired ranks of the U.S. Army. What sets apart this daughter of a Suffolk couple is an injury, but it hasn’t slowed down her desire to represent the Army in the military’s premier Paralympics competition.

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A logistical specialist, Southall, daughter of Wilbert and Barbara Southall of Suffolk, is part of a small group of wounded soldiers who have not only spent long hours of rehabilitation to regain a sense of normalcy, but have taken their recovery to a whole new level to compete in the 2012 Warrior Games competition.

Her efforts paid off — she won gold in the women’s shot put combined field during the event this week.

She spent about a week at Fort Meade training for the competition, which took place in Colorado.

“Within the military, I have participated in five sports clinics in preparation for the Warrior Games,” said the 1997 graduate of Nansemond River High School. “The clinics were for sitting volleyball, track and field, and archery. On my own, I do a lot of cardio, weight lifting and pool exercises to help build up my strength and endurance.”

Southall is one of 50 soldiers making up the Army team. The soldiers trained and tried out for events that range from sitting volleyball to wheelchair basketball, swimming, archery and track and field events.

“I was told about the Warrior Games in 2010 while I was a Warrior Transition Unit soldier at Fort Meade,” said Southall. “I filled out the application and was chosen to participate in the games. At the 2010 Warrior Games, I won a gold medal in the seated shot put.”

Competition and training is not just about recovery or physical fitness, it’s more about motivation and will to carry on.

“Training for the Warrior Games has given me a reason to get up and try to be active,” said Southall. “I gained some weight sitting around and not wanting to do anything because of injuries, and training for the games motivated me to want to get back in shape.”

Warrior Games is a Paralympic competition sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee and features a combination of active duty and retired veterans who have suffered some type of injury during their service. The event was held at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., May 1-5.

For Southall, it’s an injury she sustained in 2009.

“I suffered non-combat-related injuries to my right knee and lower back after slipping off of one of our Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks in our motor pool,” said Southall. “I also tore both of my labrums and rotator cuffs in both of my shoulders.”

Each injury has left its scars, but when Southall gets on the volleyball court, or on the track, the only thing that can be seen is her competitiveness, and the desire to win. The motivation and drive from Southall is contagious. And the Army hopes having her on the team in Colorado Springs can provide a better future for all who compete.