- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not every athlete has to be injured in the line of duty to participate in the Invictus Games, the international wounded warrior competition started by Britain’s Prince Harry in 2014.

For Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, a freak boating accident resulted in her right leg being amputated above the knee. A passionate athlete and dedicated servicewoman, Capt. Wise said she never doubted she would return to her career as a pilot or continue to enjoy playing sports.

“For me, it was friends, family, faith and my job, just loving my job and wanting to get back to it. As hard as it was to get back to flying, I’d be more depressed if I wasn’t,” she said Wednesday during a ceremony spotlighting the next Invictus Games.

Capt. Wise and Marine Corps Sgt. Ivan Sears — co-captains of Team USA — ceremoniously passed the Invictus Game flag Wednesday to Team Canada at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, ahead of the games set to take place in Toronto in September.

The Invictus Games draw wounded war veterans from all over the world to compete in sporting competitions in an effort to boost morale, raise awareness and support the recovery of the wounded military men and women.

Prince Harry, who has served two combat tours, started games in London in 2014. The games debuted in America last year in Orlando, Florida.

The Canada games are expected to bring 550 participants from 17 nations to Toronto for eight days of competition. Among the 12 adaptive sports: archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby. It will be the first games for teams from Ukraine and Romania.

Sgt. Sears, a double-leg amputee, will compete in track and field, rowing and wheelchair rugby. He lost both his legs in Afghanistan in 2012, when he stepped on an IED while on patrol. Like Capt. Wise, he also returned to active duty — as a small arms and towed artillery repairer.

The games are sponsored in part by the Fisher House Foundation, whose CEO and chairman, Ken Fisher, was responsible for bringing the Invictus Games to the U.S. in 2016.

Among the Fisher House Foundation’s projects is a network of free housing for veterans being treated at VA hospitals and their families.

A celebrated philanthropist for military causes, Mr. Fisher already was involved in the Department of Defenses’s Warrior Games.

“The idea [for the Invictus Games] came from the U.S., the Pentagon deciding to use adaptive sports as a rehab tool,” Mr. Fisher told The Washington Times. “Also, a means for the family to celebrate these amazing accomplishments — this road that so many women and men have walked down have been long and arduous. Now they’re not wounded warriors, per se, they’re competitors.”

Capt. Wise is one of six Air Force pilots with a disability. She is based out of Tucson, Arizona, and has flown missions in the Middle East from an air base in Diyarbakr, Turkey. Before her injury, Capt. Wise served in Africa and Afghanistan, flying medical evacuation missions for wounded soldiers.

To get back to flying, she had to prove she could complete all physical tests to the standard of any Air Force pilot. “I wouldn’t want any less,” she said.

She has multiple prosthetic legs that she uses depending on her activity — flying, cycling, swimming, running, skiing and rock climbing. She will compete in swimming, track and field, cycling and rowing at the upcoming games.

Despite all she has achieved, her upbeat personality and almost permanent smile, Capt. Wise says it still remains a struggle to overcome the mental and physical challenges of her amputation.

“It’s still hard now. I knew getting back to flying would be hard, I knew running would be hard and I was kind of mentally prepared for those. I was maybe not mentally prepared for all the little things. So it’s funny that that stuff is sometimes what would get me,” she said. “I’ll do a triathlon and then trip on the way to the car and be like, ‘My life is terrible!’”

To keep herself motivated, she keeps a mantra written on her mirror. “A friend told me this ‘Don’t for one second long for what you were, but recklessly pursue what you can become,’” she said.

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