COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. --
When retired Marine Corps 1st Sgt. John Fuller was asked how he thought the inaugural Warrior Games archery competition would turn out, his answer was complicated, yet simple. And it was right.
Marines earned both gold and silver medals in the compound-bow competition at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here yesterday – just as Fuller, the Marine team’s archery coach, predicted.
Cpl. Beau Parra of Wounded Warrior Detachment Hawaii narrowly missed a perfect mark, scoring 119 out of 120 possible points, closely followed by his fellow Marine, Staff Sgt. Matthew Benack, who shot 118. Army Sgt. Robert Price claimed the bronze medal.
Fuller said his prediction was based on observing his team members’ individual strengths, as well as their nerves. The two Marines who captured top honors exemplified those strengths, he said.
“We were all sitting around and talking about shooting, and one of the guys asked me, ‘How do you think it will come out?’” Fuller said. “Well, I answered truthfully and honestly. I said, ‘I think we’re going to have Benack and Parra in the gold round, and I think Parra will win it.’”
Parra said the gold medal solidifies a renewed sense of worth, and means overcoming an injury can be just the beginning for the competitors here.
“No matter how bad your wounds are, and no matter how bad you’re hurt, we can still come out here and do this,” the Prescott, Ariz., native said. “We can still compete and be champions and be winners.” But winning the competition was no walk in the park, he acknowledged.
“The competition was close,” Parra said. “I looked down the line and tried not to let my nerves get to me, because everyone put their heart into the game. This win wasn’t just given away.”
Dozens of service members went head to head, but in the end, the compound-bow competition came down to Marine against Marine. The shootout seemed more like a friendly practice round, as the two Marines encouraged each other and even offered pointers during the final rounds of competition. With a difference of only one point separating the two wounded warriors, the event kept both the audience and the competitors on their toes.
Although medals were on the line, Benack said, something more important was going on. All of the wounded warriors, he noted, share a common past and a common goal to recovery. The best part of the Warrior Games is the camaraderie among the services and the way the competitors help and encourage each other through whatever difficulties they face.
Parra said winning the gold medal gives him the confidence to move on and continue recovering.
“It gives you the mindset to take focus off of [post-traumatic stress disorder] and shift it to the game,” he said.
Marines also competed in the recurve-bow competition, but failed to place. The Army took all three medals, with the Marines finishing a close fourth. Sgt. Michael Lukow earned gold, Staff Sgt. Curtis Winston won silver, and their fellow soldier Sgt. Jeffery Anderson took the bronze medal.