Four NCOs, 16 Army vets to compete in Rio Paralympics

Army photograph by Gary Sheftick

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program wins the women’s 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 28.54 seconds — only .01 seconds off the world record in her classification – in the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team Trials on June 30 at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Four active-duty Soldiers and 16 Army veterans will be part of Team USA when athletes enter Maracana Stadium for opening ceremonies of the 2016 Paralympic Games on Wednesday, Sept. 7, in Rio de Janeiro.

Staff Sgt. John Joss and Sgt. 1st Class Shaun Tichenor will compete on the USA Shooting Team. Sgt. Elizabeth Marks will compete in swimming and Staff Sgt. Michael Lukow will compete in archery.

Joss and Tichenor are both members of the Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia. Marks and Lukow are both with the Army World Class Athlete Program.

Marks will begin her Paralympic competition the morning after the opening ceremonies as the 100-meter breast stroke preliminaries get underway.

Marks finished first in the 100-meter breast stroke event at the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team Trials on June 30 in Charlotte, N.C. She was just one-hundredth of a second off the world record, finishing in 1:28:54 and beating 17-time Paralympic medalist Jessica Long.

Marks also finished second in the 100-meter backstroke in the trials on July 2 and third in the 200-meter medley preliminaries. She is the first WCAP Soldier to qualify for the USA Paralympic Swim Team.

“I’m excited that I get the chance to represent the United States of America’s colors in any way that I’m allowed,” Marks said at an interview during the trials.

Marks suffered bilateral hip injuries in 2010 while serving as a combat medic in Iraq. She underwent three operations to restructure her hips. Marks began swimming in 2011 at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Sgt. John Joss (center) at the Housing and Urban Development Atlanta Regional Office Veteran’s Day ceremony Nov. 4, 2014 where he spoke to an audience of over 150 HUD employees.

An illness in 2012 caused a further reduction of mobility in her legs and decreased her lung capacity, leading to her experiencing disorientation and vision issues when swimming.

In 2014, she went to London to compete in the first Invictus Games, but she fell ill while travelling and was put on life support for 10 days. She nearly died from a respiratory infection and was in a medically-induced coma for almost two months. She woke up in the same hospital in Germany that she had been medically evacuated to from Iraq four years earlier.

She said it took her a while to bounce back, but at this year’s Invictus Games at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports she won four gold medals. She also won a bronze at the 2015 CanAm Para Swimming Championships.

Lukow will compete in recurve bow beginning Friday, Sept. 10. The 6-foot-3-inch infantryman is a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program. He is a native of Alamosa, Colo., and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 2008, Lukow lost his right foot and injured the other foot while serving in Bagdad when an explosively formed penetrator, known as an EFP, struck his vehicle. He took up archery while rehabilitating from his injuries.

Sgt. Michael Lukow competes in archery at the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, Nov. 17, 2011, where he won a silver medal.

He learned to walk on prosthetics and braces by retrieving his arrows. The more consistently he hit the targets, the easier the walks became, he said. Lukow is a recipient of the Iraq Campaign medal, Purple Heart and National Defense Service Medal, among others.

In 2011, Lukow earned a silver medal in the Parapan American Games. In 2014, he took another silver in the Pan American Championships. In 2014 and 2015, he competed as a member of the Czech Republic Team.

He qualified to compete for Team USA in Rio at the final event of a three-phase qualification series in Chula Vista, California, earlier this year.

Joss will compete in the prone rifle event. He enlisted in 2004 and has been a member of the Army Marksmanship Unit since 2012.

He lost a portion of his right leg from injuries in Iraq when the vehicle he was riding in was caught in an ambush in 2007.

Joss has competed alongside the best prone rifle shooters in the country, having made one event final at the 2015 USA Shooting National Championships and finishing sixth overall at the 2016 Paralympic Team Trials.

Sgt. 1st Class Shaun Tichenor practices to compete in sport pistol and air pistol events during the 2016 Paralympic Games that begin in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Sept. 7.

Tichenor will compete in the pistol and air pistol events. He was added to the Paralympic Shooting Team on Aug. 26.

Tichenor lost his right leg due to injuries sustained in the Arghan-dab River Valley, in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, when deployed with the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team in 2012.

While clearing improvised explosive devices from the road so that the rest of his company could pass through, he stepped on a pressure-plate IED. It shattered his heel bone and dislocated his ankle.

After being evacuated to stateside hospitals, Tichenor learned that he would never run again if he kept his leg, so he chose to have it amputated. After a year of recovery, he was able to run once more using a prosthetic.

Tichenor was assigned to the Army Marksmanship Unit’s International Team in January 2013 as a shooter and instructor. In 2014 and 2015, he was the Paralympic National Champion for 10-meter Air Pistol.

The following Army veterans will also be competing:

Former Staff Sgt. Josh Brunais’ sport is soccer. He is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete Career and Education program, which delivers career and education services aimed at enhancing performance and personal development for both current and retired Team USA athletes. Brunais is from Stafford, Virginia.

Retired Col. Patricia Collins’ sport is the paratriathlon. In 2013, she won silver at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championship and in 2015 she won a bronze at the ITU World Paratriathlon.

In 2006, Collins was hit by a car. Her lower left leg was amputated in 2007. Since that time, she’s made two parachute jumps.

Former Pvt. Lia Coryell will be shooting a compound bow in the W1 women’s category in Rio. She first competed on Team USA last year, when she was selected to the World Archery Para Championships and Parapan American Championships teams, following a solid performance in the World Archery Para Championships Team Trials.

Sgt. Elizabeth Wasil, now Marks, (right) carries the U.S. flag into the stadium at head of a formation of more than 165 U.S. service members during opening ceremonies of the Military World Games in Mungyeon, South Korea, Oct. 2, 2015, where she earned a gold medal in shot put.

Retired Staff Sgt. Tom Davis is a newcomer to Team USA, specializing in road cycling. Davis is a combat-wounded veteran who has been cycling since 2012.

He joined the Army in 2002. In 2006, he rode shotgun in a Humvee as it drove through Ramadi, the most dangerous city in Iraq at the time. While turning, the truck ran over an improvised explosive device. The blast threw the truck two stories in the air. It flipped backward and landed on its roof. Due to his injuries, Davis had his left leg removed.

He lives with his wife Jamie and four children in Fremont, Ind. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching youth sports.

Second Lt. David Garza’s sport is soccer, which was his childhood sport. He suffered a near-death car accident in 2012. He said he is grateful to receive a second chance at life and the opportunity to live out his dream of playing soccer.

Seth Jahn’s sport is soccer. Jahn deployed three times to Afghanistan and Iraq with the Army’s 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), where he was severely injured in 2010 while directly supporting combat operations. He was told he would never walk again.

Four years later, he served as a co-captain on the U.S. Paralympic National Soccer Team. Jahn was introduced to Paralympic sport through the military rehab program and started training with the U.S. Paralympics National Soccer Team in July 2014.

After serving for the better part of 12 years, he officially retired from the military in the fall of 2014. He is proficient in four languages: English, Spanish, Dari and Pashto and is pursuing his master’s degree in intelligence management.

He has climbed three of the world’s tallest mountains since his 2010 injury: Mounts Kilimanjaro, Blanc, and Elbrus, and plans to attempt Mt. Everest and Denali this year. He also raced cars in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and has fought in two Muay Thai matches in Thailand.

Former Sgt. Kari Miller’s sport is sitting volleyball. Over the years, she has won many medals, beginning in 2007 with a silver at the Sitting Volleyball Invitational. In 2008, she won a bronze at the WOVD Intercontinental Cup and the same year, a silver at the Beijing Paralympic Games.

In 2009 she took gold at the Parapan American Zonal Championship and gold at the Eurocup. In 2010, she took gold at the WOVD World Cup and gold at the Parapan American Championships and silver in the WOVD Sitting Volleyball World Championships.

In 2011, she took gold in the Parapan American Zonal Championships. In 2012 she earned gold at the Volleyball Masters and silver at the London Paralympic Games. In 2015 she earned gold at the Parapan American Games. In 2016, she earned gold at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup.

Miller became an amputee in 1999 as a result of a drunk driver hitting the car she was riding in. Miller currently serves as a community programs coordinator for the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Program.

Retired Maj. Shawn Morelli’s sport is road cycling and track cycling. While deployed as an engineer officer in Afghanistan in 2007, Morelli was seriously injured by an IED. The result was neck, nerve damage, brain trauma and blindness in her left eye.

Her first competition was at a 2010 Warrior Games. She broke the women’s C4 pursuit world record at the 2016 UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships.

She is working on a doctorate in public and community service, but her studies and dissertation are on hold while she’s training. In 2015 she was honored by Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City during its Salute to Troops campaign.

Retired Staff Sgt. Dan Regan’s sport is sitting volleyball. He earned silver medals at the 2010, 2011 and 2015 ParaPan American Games.

Regan served 12 years in the Army. He was injured during a boating accident, which resulted in his right leg being amputated above the knee and muscle and nerve damage to his left leg.

Former 2nd Lt. Jennifer Schuble’s sport is road cycling and track cycling. She is a three-time Paralympian and five-time Paralympic medalist. She set a world record in the track time trial at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.

While attending the West Point Military Academy to become a commissioned officer, Schuble competed as a varsity athlete in three separate sports. One day, during hand-to-hand combat class at West Point, Schuble sustained a traumatic brain injury. She later sustained an additional traumatic brain injury in a car accident. In 2004, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Retired Spc. Scot Severn’s sports are shot put, discus and javelin. He has won a number of medals, including golds at the 2008, 2010, and 2012 Paralympic National Championships, a silver at the 2011 Parapan American Games, and a silver at the IPC Athletics World Championships.

In 1989, Severn was on duty with the Army Reserve at Camp Grayling, Michigan when he was struck by lightning. The direct strike threw him 40 feet and caused external as well as internal burns and nerve damage that resulted in him becoming a quadriplegic. He began bowling soon after his accident and still competes. He started participating in wheelchair sports in 2003.

On Labor Day 2006, he hand-cycled across the Mackinaw Bridge in Michigan with Gov. Jennifer Granholm as part of the governor’s mentoring program. He currently serves as the sports director for the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Ahmed Shafik’s sport is powerlifting. He participated in the 2012 London Paralympic games.

Shafik was born in Baghdad, Iran and contracted Polio as a baby. He developed a love for powerlifting in 1997 at age 24. In 2001, he moved to the U.S. to finish school as an electronics engineer at Tucson Pima Community College. Subsequently, he served in the U.S. Army for 10 years and was a linguist for three years in Iraq.

Retired Staff Sgt. Gavin Sibayan’s sport is side soccer. In high school, he competed in swimming, soccer, baseball, cross country and wrestling. He joined the Army in 2005 and worked as a military policeman and served in Iraq. Sibayan started competing with the U.S. Paralympic Soccer Team in 2010. He was medically retired as a staff sergeant in 2011.

Retired Army 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell’s sport is the paratriathlon. In 2013 she won silver in the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships. In 2015, he won a bronze in the same event.

Stockwell was the first female American Soldier in history to lose a limb in active combat in April 2004, during operations in Iraq. She currently works in the field of prosthetics fitting other amputees with prosthetic devices.

Former Cpl. James Stuck’s sport is sitting volleyball. He competed in four Parapan American Championships, earning gold in 2009 and silver in 2010, 2011 and 2015.

Stuck served in the 101st Airborne Division. In 2015 while serving in Iraq his Humvee hit an IED and he lost most of his right leg.

Retired Spc. Johnnie Williams participated in the 2014 and the 2015 Paralympic Track and Field National Championships, taking first place in the javelin and discus both years. In 2015, he participated in the Parapan American Games, taking third place in javelin.

When Williams was 21 years old, he was injured in a Humvee accident while serving in Baghdad. He received injuries to both legs, severing an artery and sustaining a compression fracture.


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