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NEWS | June 29, 2024

Adaptive sports helped me have a routine

By MaryTherese Griffin Army Recovery Care Program

No one knows the importance of having a daily routine more than Army Spc. Alexis Pantoja. "I had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from a hit and run on my bicycle on Sept 24, 2022. I was in a ten-day coma. When I first woke up, the first thirteen days, I didn't remember anything I did. At the time, when I was remembering stuff, they were taking me to the VA in Minnesota to work on my TBI and aphasia."

Pantoja is now on Team Army, competing at this year's Department of Defense Warrior Games in Orlando, Florida. He explained that his being here is nothing short of a miracle. "A symptom of my TBI is that you are not aware of what's wrong. For example, on my first day in Minnesota, I told my Nurse Case Manager I didn't need to be there. Of course, I did, but I didn't know it then."

He had to learn to write, walk, and talk again. His journey to where he is today included adaptive sports, which he discovered at the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU)." I didn't know about the SRU, but I enjoyed everything they offered. I did chair yoga and volunteered at a horse program called Compadre. Those things helped me tremendously because they helped me remember how to do things. Even with things like dancing, which I love, I had to learn it all over again. In Texas, they have line dances, and I had to learn them all over again," said the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Specialist.

"In my job, we specialize in helping units combat chemical and biological threats. Unfortunately, I won't be returning to duty because I am going through the medical board.," said Pantoja.

The silver lining, however, is that he is still representing the Army at the Warrior Games and competing in field, track, and rowing. "Adaptive sports helped me establish a routine. Everything new to me helped me progress because I had to learn so much again."

Pantoja said he can't believe he is here and is proud of his progress. "This is exciting to be competing at this level. And seeing all the services and Australia being here is a big deal."

Like all other Soldiers with a particular wound injury or illness, Pantoja shares that each journey can have a positive outcome. "No matter how unusual your experience, it can still feel normal. It just takes hard work, dedication, and, for me, repetition."

Ever confident in his ability today, this Soldier Athlete is also clear about his teammates. "Team Army is ready! Watch what we can all do."