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NEWS | June 21, 2024

Going from competitor to mentor and coach

By MaryTherese Griffin Army Recovery Care Program

When retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Greg Quarles thinks back on his journey to today, it is riddled with roads he never expected to go down. The Army Ranger was severely injured on his eighth deployment to the Middle East. He was shot in the head, broke his neck, and was in an explosion all on July 21, 2012. He discovered adaptive sports at the Fort Moore Soldier Recovery Unit, which was life-changing.

“I never thought I would be an athlete,” said Quarles. “After my injuries and going into the then WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion), I learned about adaptive sports and Warrior Games. I thought, wow, how remarkable that people with injuries like this can continue to be athletes and do great things.”

Quarles is doing great things at this year’s Department of Defense Warrior Games, a place he is no stranger to. “Getting to represent Team Army multiple years starting in 2016 as an athlete and then getting selected to represent Team USA at Invictus twice, and now being afforded the opportunity to be a coach and a mentor at the 2024 Warrior Games is absolutely amazing,” said the multi-medalist athlete.

Quarles piloted a tandem bike as a mentor at this year’s games for Sgt. 1st Class Henry Escobedo of Team Army, who is visually impaired. He is also this year’s rowing coach for Team Army and says these athletes have what it takes, and he sees it. “I’m absolutely proud,” he said. “You might be a rower and do it at the gym, but 90% of these folks have never done it. The fact that they made it here on this team is tremendous.”

Quarles admits he had doubts about even trying out to be on Team Army, but faith and determination prevailed. “Initially, I kept thinking, ‘I can't do this,’” he explained. “I have spinal cord injuries, and there are things I can't do anymore. I was hard-headed back then, and I slowly got pushed into archery, rowing, cycling, and air rifle, and I loved it! The injuries are not making who I am; I make who I am, and they won't dictate my life anymore.”

From competitor to coach, Quarles shares the importance of adaptive sports and events like Warrior Games. “Adaptive sports have gotten me where I am today,” said Quarles. “I was always physically fit until my injuries, and then I went into a downward spiral. Being bedridden and on all the medications they put you on can cause depression, anxiety, and weight gain; causing me to go down that dark road, but luckily, adaptive sports brought me out of it.”

He said sports aren’t just for the whole, able-bodied athlete. “To me, adaptive sports are where it’s at,” he added. “We must work ten times harder – it takes more mindset and determination as an adaptive sports athlete.”

Quarles is determined to help the athletes he works with understand the value of what’s been afforded them at the SRU and Warrior Games level. “This is a life-changing opportunity,” said Quarles. “It’s not just about going out there and competing because once the Warriors Games is over, it's over. It's about having the mindset to use what you’ve learned in adaptive sports to translate that into everyday life.”

In everyday life, Quarles's home inspection business requires him to be very physical. “Injuries don’t dictate what we can’t do; we must learn to adapt around them,” he explained. “The sky is the limit! Don’t quit no matter what you are out here for. Use this as a stepping stone and reminder to keep going. Recovery never stops; it's an ongoing process.”