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NEWS | May 8, 2022

Army Trials helps injured Soldier show the world she can still compete

By MaryTherese Griffin Army

Throwing around 126-152 pounds of ammunition rounds is all in a day’s work for U.S. Army Cpl. Jennifer Acker. As an ammunition specialist at Fort Riley, Kansas, she controls, supplies, and delivers ammunitions to training units. In July of 2019, while offloading those supplies, she knew something had gone wrong.

“I threw a couple of them, my shoulder felt funny, so I switched to a smaller munition,” Acker explained. “The guys I was with finished the larger stuff. A few days later we came back to restock and re-supply everything. As we loaded up, I heard a really bad sound in my shoulder.”

She said she suspected she had torn everything. An initial surgery to repair her left labrum and a muscle was in order, but afterward there was something she knew was not quite right. “I was going through months of PT (physical therapy) and noticed I was losing strength rather than gaining strength. I sneezed one day, and my shoulder fell out of the socket.”

She knew that wasn’t normal and got an emergency appointment with her doctor who ordered another MRI. This was in February - March time frame, at the beginning of the shut down from the Pandemic. The MRI showed her bicep muscle had detached.

“It changed my way of living for sure that summer; things like mowing the lawn and getting groceries plus I was a care giver for my mother-in-law and my spouse. It was a challenge.”

In March of 2021 she had a full shoulder replacement. In June 2021, she began recovering at the Fort Riley Soldier Recovery Unit. “I went through the then Warrior Transition Battalion several years ago when I broke my leg in Afghanistan, so I knew how the program worked. It’s an excellent group of people. My ARCP (Army Recovery Care Program) team today is the reason I am here at Army Trials,” she said with a smile.”

Acker is at Fort Bragg, North Carolina this week competing in cycling, sitting volleyball, standing discus and swimming for the opportunity to represent Team Army at the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Orlando this August.

Acker was told before she joined the Fort Riley SRU by some physical therapists and doctors that she would never regain use of her shoulder again.

“The folks in the Army Recovery Care Program showed me how to do things and get back into things…they showed me how to adapt.”

During this newfound recovery process through adaptive reconditioning, the words ‘Warrior Games’ hit her ears and the rest is history.

“I learned about this opportunity to compete to be on Team Army a few months ago and it changed my perspective of recovery, and that I could do stuff despite being told early on this is what you’ve got deal with,“ she stated.

The Team Army hopeful says the camaraderie at Army Trials is amazing and it’s about so much more than sports.

“It has shown me an array of all walks of life. That no matter where we’ve started, we all have the ability to be better than what medical facilities, faculty or science has ever said,” Acker explained. Even if those like her are told you can’t do that anymore. “There are thirty-eight people here that are defying everything their doctor told them and its encouraging. It makes me want to be louder when I’m out there!”

Always the team cheerleader and motivator for her fellow athletes, Acker feels this group collectively has a message to share, loud and proud.

“We are showing the world that we may have a disability, and we may have to adapt to things, and they may not see those things we are fighting through, but we all have the heart of a lion, and nothing is stopping us.”