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Blind Marine competes in Warrior Games with the help of his family

By Aquita Brown | | May 16, 2011

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The Warrior Games is an annual athletic competition that allows the Wounded Warrior Regiment’s wounded, ill and injured Marines to strengthen their mind, body and spirit.

Athletes from all branches of service have an opportunity to compete, fine tune their skills and build camaraderie. However, for Marine veteran Chuck Sketch it means much more than that. Chuck has the opportunity to share this experience with his fellow Marines and his father, Roger Sketch.

In February 1991, Chuck joined the United States Marine Corps because, “they are the best,” said Chuck. He was an 0311 infantryman during Operation Dessert Storm.

In 1997, Chuck received devastating news that would change his life forever. He was diagnosed with cancer and his sight was the first thing to go as a result of a brain tumor.

“I cried when I heard the news,” said Roger. “I remember Chuck placing his hand on my arm and he signaled for a pen.” On the piece of paper Chuck wrote, “‘I can handle this. However, you can do one thing for me; read the bible to me every day.’”

Several months later doctors informed the Sketch family that due to an infection, Chuck would have to lose his legs or his life.

Chuck believed that the recovery process was going to be difficult, but with the help of his family he would fight through this life changing event.

“When you get disabled you think that you are worthless,” said Chuck. “You want things to go back to how they were. I don’t have any regrets and I honestly do not want things to change. I have more fun and more opportunities than I did before. I am doing more things than most of my friends that I served with have never done.”

Chuck is referring to several athletic programs in which he has competed. He has traveled across the world to compete and participate in the Wounded Warrior Regiment’s Warrior Athlete Reconditioning program, Ride to Recovery and the Warrior Games.

Last year, Chuck was selected as the team captain and torch bearer at the Warrior Games Opening Ceremony. This year, Chuck will compete in cycling, 50m and 10m freestyle, and 50m backstroke. Chuck’s ultimate goal at this year’s Games is to increase the awareness of the program to athletes within his selective category (blind and bilateral amputee) and just improve his athletic abilities overall.

“I love the Games. Being here just gets me fired up,” said Chuck on why he continues to participate. “I just wish that there were more service members here to participate in my category.”

Not afraid of the competition, Chuck continues to recruit for the Games.

“Chuck tells all of his friends about the Games and how they can get involved. He looks for more participants in his category so that he can have more competition,” said Roger. “This is the main event that he trains for year-round.”

Enthusiasm and good spirits is what keeps this Marine motivated.

“Chuck does not need any outside motivation,” said Roger. “He is the motivator. After the Games he has a high that goes on for months.”

Chuck wants all of his fellow wounded, ill and injured Marines to know that, “You are not limited to your wheelchair. There are programs out there. The Warrior Games is a fabulous opportunity to train with top notch coaches. You can become faster after just one or two weeks of training. My goal is to be faster than Ray Hennagir (teammate) next year,” said Chuck jokingly.

According to the U.S. Paralympic Committee, the Warrior Games are designed to elevate abilities through athletic competition for wounded, ill and injured service members by providing a focal event to empower the incorporation of athletics into Military Service Wounded Warrior Programs. The Warrior Games will be an annual event to celebrate the achievement and abilities of wounded, ill and injured service members, while building camaraderie and raising awareness for adaptive sports. This year’s Games will be held at the Olympic Training Center Colorado Springs, Colo., May 16-21.

Established in 2007, the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment was created to provide and facilitate non-medical care to combat and non-combat wounded, ill, and injured Marines, and sailors attached to or in direct support of Marine units and their family members in order to assist them as they return to duty or transition to civilian life. The Regimental Headquarters element, located at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., commands the operations of two Wounded Warrior Battalions located at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and multiple detachments in locations around the globe.
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