Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

One Marine’s journey to recovery through adaptive sports

Woman in wheelchair on podium; holding up prosthetic leg Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Annika Hutsler celebrates winning four gold medals in swimming during the 2020 U.S. Marine Corps Trials in Camp Pendleton, California. (Photo by Roger Wollenberg, DOD.)

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Introduction to Adaptive Sports

This article is written through the eyes of a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Lance Cpl. Annika Hutsler. The Wounded Warrior Regiment maintains an adaptive sports program called the Warrior Athlete Reconditioning Program (WAR-P). WAR-P provides adaptive reconditioning activities and competitive athletic opportunities to all wounded, ill, and injured recovering service members (RSMs) to improve their well-being physically and mentally thereby enhancing their quality of life throughout the continuum of recovery, reintegration, and transition. After joining the Wounded Warrior Regiment in July 2018, Hutsler was required to participate in at least one activity to the best of her abilities.

******************************************************************************

“I was assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment in July 2018. I was classified as a limb salvage patient for the doctors had discovered a giant mass in my right foot. As a Marine, I was struggling a lot mentally more than anything else. At the time, I was pretty much bound to a wheelchair or on crunches. I had to wear a walking boot for over 400 days. It was an extremely rough time in my life until I was exposed to the Wounded Warrior requirement that all Marines will do something active and productive to enhance their resiliency and recovery.”

Woman wearing prosthetic leg running in race and crossing the finish line
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Hutsler competing in track by crossing the finish line at the 2020 U.S. Marine Corps Trials in Camp Pendleton, California, March 2020. She won gold in the event. (Photo by Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Nathan Cleary.)

Archery was the first adaptive sport and therapeutic activity I was introduced to, which opened a whole new world for me. I loved going to archery practice and from there I kind of just expanded my possibilities. Archery was the one thing that got me up in the morning, especially on days I didn’t want to get up. WAR-P adaptive reconditioning activities and sports gave me a sense of purpose at a time where I felt I had no purpose in the Marine Corps anymore.

Renewed Passion to Compete

Track is my favorite adaptive sport to compete in. As a Marine and someone with two legs, I hated running. But when I was limb salvaged for 14 months, I missed what I couldn’t do, and running was the biggest thing for me. I love running now. I’m on a track team now and it’s a freeing experience to be able to run again.

My participation in various adaptive sports and reconditioning activities in the WAR-P led to my selection to participate in the Marine Corps Trials at Camp Pendleton, California. During my first Marine Corps Trials in 2019, I competed in six adaptive sports: wheelchair racing, wheelchair rugby, seated volleyball, archery, shooting, and swimming.

Two weeks after the Trials, I had my right leg amputated below the knee. I begged and asked, ‘If I heal enough can I do the Warrior Games?’

Nobody believed I could do it.

I worked hard and showed up a month before the Warrior Games with my doctor’s approval to compete. In only eight weeks post amputation, I competed in the 2019 Warrior Games, in Tampa, Florida, representing the USMC as one of 40 Marine team members. I competed in four adaptive sports: wheelchair racing, wheelchair rugby, archery, and swimming. I competed with over 300 RSMs and veterans representing teams from the Army, Navy, Air Force, SOCOM, and a couple of international teams from the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Being able to compete in the Warrior Games was incredible. It felt good to see all these other athletes because either someone is inspiring you or you are inspiring someone. As military we’re all competitive against each other but there’s still such a comradery. The Warrior Games is a competition like nothing else in the world.

Woman snowboarding with a brace on her knee
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Hutsler in 2018 snowboarding with an IDEO brace in Lee Canyon, Las Vegas. The IDEO brace was one of her many limb salvage braces prior to amputation. (Courtesy Photo.)

The Road Ahead

 My biggest takeaway that I’ve learned from Military Adaptive Sports is don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. When I was limb salvaged everyone was like, ‘you’re not going to run track.’ I did it in a wheelchair and now that I’m an amputee, I can run on a blade. If you set your mind to it, you can do whatever you want.

I see myself continuing with the adaptive sport community for the rest of my life. I’m connected to a lot of adaptive sport and recreation organizations. It gives me a sense of belonging when I’m with people like me.

Now, I’m training for the Paralympics in snowboarding and I credit that to Military Adaptive Sports Program and WAR-P. Because of the Warrior Games, various adaptive sports contacts, and my confidence level in my own adaptive sports abilities, I realized that making the U.S. Paralympics team is a dream that I can make a reality. When I achieve my goals [now] it’s so much more rewarding because I had to work harder to get there.

Connecting Disabled Veterans

Anytime I meet someone who is a disabled veteran, I ask ‘Have you ever done the Warrior Games?’

I give them contacts if they are interested in participating in adaptive sports. The Warrior Games was such a big thing for me mentally and emotionally that I feel like everybody should have the chance to participate.”

To learn more about Military Adaptive Sports, visit Warrior Care

To learn more about the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment and the WAR-P Program visit https://www.woundedwarrior.marines.mil/;

You also may be interested in...

Navy military caregiver pays it forward

Article
11/16/2020
Group of men and women on a stage, some standing, some sitting

The Warrior Games and Warrior Care Recovery Coordination Program helped the Cozad family understand their new reality.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Disability Evaluation

Recovering service members, not just a number with OWF

Article
11/10/2020
image of Mr. Rodriguez in uniform

OWF is a...program that matches qualified wounded, ill and injured service members with non-funded federal internships.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Warrior Care RCP’s multitude of programs supports the Warfighter

Article
11/6/2020
Three men shooting arrows at targets

Since 2008, The Department of Defense has recognized November as Warrior Care Month.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Warrior Care | Warrior Care

Indiana National Guard amputee stays true to his motto - ‘Never Quit’

Article
11/3/2020
Soldier with leg prosthesis putting on his shoe.

Life and limbs are often casualties.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Warrior Care

Suicide impacts us all – but there is help!

Article
9/14/2020
Man at sporting event kissing his wife and baby

September marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Warrior Care

PREVENTS aimed at reducing Service Member and Veteran suicide

Article
9/9/2020
Group of airmen hugging each other

In our nation, suicide has increased by 33% over the last 25 years across all demographics.

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention | Warrior Care | Total Force Fitness

OWF Program assists Wounded Warrior obtain FBI internship

Article
8/18/2020
Photo of woman wearing glasses in a white blouse

Staff Sgt. Amy Arenas received her dream internship through DoD Warrior Care Program Operation Warfighter.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Military Adaptive Sports Program aids with healing our Wounded Warriors

Article
7/7/2020
Man in wheelchair race

MHS shines spotlight on National Therapeutic Recreation Week

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Total Force Fitness

Caregivers sometimes unaware of support available

Article
2/21/2020
Caregiver Stacey Rivera and Navy Wounded Warrior staff canoe around Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam during the Military Caregiver Workshop. (Photo by Gabrielle Arias, Peer Support Coordinator, DHA Recovery Care Program, San Diego)

February 21 is National Caregivers Day

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Getting creative: Reducing opioid use for returning warriors

Article
11/5/2019
Airmen of the 174th Attack Wing participate in a weekly yoga class. Classes are intended to present an alternative way for 174th members to build both mental and physical strength. Yoga is also a way to alleviate chronic pain in the body. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Duane Morgan)

With the rise in opioid-related drug abuse and death, the Military Health System looks to complementary pain management treatments

Recommended Content:

Opioid Safety | Pain Management | Warrior Care

Warrior Care Month Recognition

Policy

This memorandum from Mr. Thomas McCaffery, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, officially recognizes November as Warrior Care Month, an important Department of Defense (DoD)-wide effort to increase awareness of programs and resources available to wounded, ill, and injured Service members, as well as their families, caregivers, and others who support them.

  • Identification #: N/A
  • Date: 10/25/2019
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Warrior Care

Wounded Warrior Policy Review

Congressional Testimony
8/23/2019

H.R. 5515, NDAA Conference Report for FY 2019, 115-874, Sec. 717

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Osseointegration

Video
12/8/2017
Doctors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are adapting technology developed in Europe called Osseointegration. The technology allows the attachment of prosthetics directly to a patient's skeleton.

Doctors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are adapting technology developed in Europe called Osseointegration. The technology allows the attachment of prosthetics directly to a patient's skeleton.

Recommended Content:

Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence | Warrior Care

Invisible Wounds, Invisible Care

Infographic
12/8/2017
Invisible Wounds, Visible Care: A Road to Care and Recovery. 1. Seek Care: Are yo or someone you know showing symptoms of an invisible wound? Seek care early and often. Many resources are available to support you and your family. 2. Receive Care: Connect with medical and non-medical services that will assist you throughout the care process, help you build a care management team, and support your recovery. 3. Continued Care: Continue recovery while reintegrating into your unit or transitioning into civilian life.

This infographic outlines the Air Force Invisible Wounds Initiative and offers a list of resources for wounded warriors and their families.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Care Loop

Video
11/29/2017
Air force Tech. Sgt. Mariana Carrano’s business is patient care. She’s one of four Air Force liaison officers with the 86th Medical Squadron at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a short drive from Ramstein AB. As an LO, as they are often called, Carrano is responsible for taking care of a patient throughout the entire care loop – from the moment he or she arrives at Ramstein AB until the moment he or she leaves.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mariana Carrano’s business is patient care. She’s one of four Air Force liaison officers with the 86th Medical Squadron at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a short drive from Ramstein AB. As an LO, as they are often called, Carrano is responsible for taking care of a patient throughout the entire care loop – from the moment he or she arrives at Ramstein AB until the moment he or she leaves.

Recommended Content:

Access to Health Care | Warrior Care
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 31 - 45 Page 3 of 6

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.