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Savage competition

By Capt. Jill Leyden | | February 21, 2011

In the afternoon sun, Marines, Marine veterans and Allied forces battled for gold in the 14 Area pool here during the first-annual Marine Corps Trials.  Among them, a medically retired corporal from Lodi, Wisc. who is on a mission to lead her team to first place.

Savage Margraf, a member of the Veteran team, went head to head with other swimmers and sailed through the preliminaries into finals.  “I felt splashing towards the finish and I thought that my competition was catching up to me, but after finishing I realized I was in the clear.” 

After placing first in three women’s, open-category preliminary events, 50m freestyle, 50m backstroke and 100m freestyle, she exuded enthusiasm and excitement.  It was contagious, infecting teammate Nic Meadows, who is competing in swimming and shooting, as they talked poolside about the potential for their team’s overall victory in the swimming competition.
While she hopes to ultimately earn a position on the All-Marine Warrior Games team, Margraf explained that her primary goal is to earn as many points as possible for the Veteran team.

Margraf also came to participate in the Trials so she could meet other veterans and be with her “brothers and sisters again,” she said.  “I came here for the camaraderie.  Some of us need this; some guys don’t ever get to do things like this now that they are out of the Marine Corps.”  She remarked that the sense of humor Marines have is unique.  “You miss it…you can relate to each other and that is therapeutic.”

Margraf explained that hanging out with other Marines isn’t like anything else.  “Even though some of the veterans are from the Vietnam era, they know what it’s like; it’s like they have been to Iraq.  They get it.”

Margraf enlisted in 2004 and worked in the motor transportation military occupational specialty until she was medically retired in 2008.  She previously served in Marine Wing Support Squadron 372, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing but was assigned to MWSS 373 for her deployment to Iraq.  Margraf attends Madison College and is earning an associates degree in liberal arts with plans to earn a bachelors degree in psychology.

Recently, a Wounded Warrior Regiment staff member, Gunnery Sgt. Michael Gillitzer let Margraf know about the Trials and encouraged her to participate.  Gillitzer, a district injured support cell coordinator, provides assistance to Margraf by ensuring she receives the educational benefits to which she is entitled.  He also assists her by identifying potential employment opportunities.  Gillitzer hopes Margraf will share her experiences at the Trials with other veterans in her community and encourage them to participate in future events.

By the end of the swimming competition, Margraf earned three gold medals, contributing 9 points to her team’s overall 40 points and pushing the Veteran team into second place just behind the Allied team with 44 points. 

Swimming was the first event to conduct a final competition.  Six other competitions will take place during the Marine Corps Trials, archery, wheelchair basketball, cycling, shooting, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

The first-annual Marine Corps Trials are hosted by the United States Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.  The Trials, which features seven Paralympic sports, will provide a forum for coaches and staff to select 50 wounded, ill and injured Marines and Marine veterans to serve on the 2011 All-Marine Warrior Games team.  The Warrior Games, a competition between all branches of service for wounded, ill and injured service members, will take place in Colorado Springs, Colo. May 16-22, 2011.

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