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...

CAP Wounded Service Member Initiative

Fact Sheet
10/28/2014

CAP Supports Wounded Service Member Initiative provides needs assessments, assistive technology, and training to our nation’s wounded service members throughout all phases of recovery and the transition to employment.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet
10/28/2014

Explains the TRICARE Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy benefit

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Coverage of Assisted Reproductive Services

Fact Sheet
10/28/2014

Fact sheet that describes coverage for assisted reproductive services for injured serivce members.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Information for Combat Veterans

Fact Sheet
10/28/2014

Fact sheet that discusses benefits for wounded, ill or injured service members.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Advancement and Sustainment of Amputee Care

Presentation
8/11/2014

Briefing to the Defense Health Board at August 11, 2014 meeting on Advancement and Sustainment of Amputee Care.

Recommended Content:

Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence | Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence | Warrior Care

Saving Lives on the Battlefield Part II One Year Later

Presentation
8/11/2014

Saving Lives on the Battlefield Part II One Year Later presentation for August 11, 2014, DHB meeting.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Decision Brief on Combat Trauma Lessons Learned

Presentation
8/11/2014

Decision briefing at the August 11, 2014 Defense Health Board meeting on Combat Trauma Lessons Learned.

Recommended Content:

Medical Research and Development | Warrior Care | Warrior Care

DoDM 1332.18, Volume 1: Disability Evaluation System (DES) Manual: General Information and Legacy Disability Evaluation System (LDES) Time Standards

Policy

This manual is composed of several volumes, each containing its own purpose. The purpose of the overall manual, in accordance with the authority in DoD Directive 5124.02 (Reference (a)), is to implement policy, assign responsibilities, and provide procedures for the DES pursuant to DoD Instruction (DoDI) 1332.18 (Reference (b)).

  • Identification #: DoDM 1332.18, Volume 1
  • Date: 8/5/2014
  • Type: Manual
  • Topics: Warrior Care

DoDM 1332.18, Volume 2: Disability Evaluation System (DES) Manual: Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)

Policy

This manual is composed of several volumes, each containing its own purpose. The purpose of the overall manual, in accordance with the authority in DoD Directive 5136.01 (Reference (a)), is to implement policy, assign responsibilities, and provide procedures for the DES pursuant to DoD Instruction (DoDI) 1332.18 (Reference (b)).

  • Identification #: DoDM 1332.18, Volume 2
  • Date: 8/5/2014
  • Type: Manual
  • Topics: Warrior Care

DoDI 1332.18: Disability Evaluation System (DES)

Policy

This instruction establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and provides procedures for referral, evaluation, return to duty, separation, or retirement of Service members for disability

  • Identification #: DoDI 1332.18
  • Date: 8/5/2014
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Warrior Care

Combat Casualty Care Research Program

Presentation
6/3/2014

Combat Casualty Care Research Program Presentation to the June 3, 2015, DHB meeting.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Trauma and Injury Subcommittee Update Theater Trauma Lessons Learned Tasking

Presentation
6/3/2014

Trauma and Injury Subcommittee Update presented to the Defense Health Board

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence | Disability Evaluation

Health Care Delivery Subcommittee Update Sustainment and Advancement of Amputee Care Tasking

Presentation
6/3/2014

Presentation to the Defense Health Board: Health Care Delivery Subcommittee Update Sustainment and Advancement of Amputee Care Tasking

Recommended Content:

Quality and Safety of Health Care (for Health Care Professionals) | Access to Health Care | Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence | Warrior Care

Wounded Warrior Battalion East

Presentation
6/3/2014

Wounded Warrior Battalion East presentation to the Defense Health Board on June 3, 2014.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

DoD Instruction 6025.20: Medical Management (MM) Programs in the Direct Care System (DCS) and Remote Areas

Policy

Establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes uniform guidelines, procedures, and standards for the implementation of clinical case management (CM) in the Military Health System (MHS), for TRICARE beneficiaries including care of the wounded, ill, and injured (WII) in accordance with the authority in Reference (b) and DoDI 1300.24 (Reference (f)).

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6025.20
  • Date: 10/2/2013
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Warrior Care
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 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.