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2024 DoD Warrior Games: Thursday, June 27 - Track 0730-1430 and Wheelchair Basketball Finals 1800-2100. Click here to watch live. GO TEAM ARMY!

NEWS | June 26, 2024

Anybody who wants to try an adaptive sport should just do it!

By MaryTherese Griffin Army Recovery Care Program

Retired Army Spc. Michael Villagran didn’t make it to his second Warrior Games on Team Army easily. He chose adaptive sports to recover after losing his right leg a few years ago.

“It wasn’t easy; it took some getting used to, but over time, I just kept doing things in life and adaptive sports over and over again, you know, repetition, and it made everything better,” said the infantryman.

Villagran’s life changed forever on a deployment in 2012. “I stepped on a bomb on a rooftop in Afghanistan,” he said. “From there, I was sent to Germany, then to Fort Liberty (North Carolina), where I had multiple surgeries to save my leg. I had limb salvage for four years.”

The limb salvage was not fruitful, so he made a big decision. “It was a choice, but there was nothing more they could do for me treatment-wise, so it was either take a bunch of pain pills every day forever or amputate my leg,” explained Villagran. “For me, that was an easy choice.”

Watching Villagran compete at the 2024 Department of Defense Warrior Games, in everything from wheelchair rugby to sitting volleyball, cycling, field, and more, is like reading a road map to resiliency. “It wasn’t something that happened right away. “Whether in a chair playing rugby or on the floor playing (sitting) volleyball, it’s a lot of hard work and therapy. It takes time and practice, and I’ve got it down now,” he said with a big smile.

He certainly does have it down, and his fire is fueled by a previous Warrior Games competition that has stayed with him and has him doing a victory dance. “I’m feeling great at these games!” said Villagran. “I’m still on a big high on our very first win in (wheelchair) rugby the other night. I was here in 2022, and we were in the same medal round but lost to SOCOM, so coming back here to finish what we started was a great feeling for me!”

He hopes others can catch that great feeling if faced with a medical change in their life. “Anybody who wants to try an adaptive sport should just do it!” he added. “Get out there and find information in town or the VA. You don’t know what you'll like until you try it, and you can’t be scared - you have to do it!”

The father of three daughters says they are an excellent support team to him, and he hopes they see nothing but a positive way forward. “My kids love it, and I hope I can inspire them as well; showing them they can see their dad doing it,” he said. “Just because dad is missing a leg doesn’t mean he can’t be an athlete out here. I can and still do the sports I love, just in an adaptive way.”

Villagran is excited to represent the U.S. at the first-ever Invictus Winter Games in Canada next year, where he knows he will compete in skeleton (bobsled). “I’ve been doing that for five years, so I’m excited,” said Villagran. “Any way I can represent the country I’m in!”

Being around like-minded athletes is also a massive win for Villagran. As far as this year’s Team Army goes, he recognizes their hard work and how far they’ve come.

“I’ve not seen a team like this in a long time,” said Villagran. “I'm impressed with these amazing athletes and excited to give these other branches a run for their money.”