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NEWS | Sept. 25, 2014

Former Guardsman establishes adaptive sports community

By Airman 1st Class Devin Scott Michaels 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

According to the Save Our Wounded Warriors webpage, over 52,000 soldiers have been wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fifteen percent of these veterans suffer from a traumatic brain injury. One in five of them have post-traumatic stress disorder. Between 2002 and 2013, 32,294 veterans were diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A new community in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area designed to combat these statistics is in its early development stages. The community is based on adaptive sports and promotes an established support system for disabled and medically retired veterans. Adaptive sports are modified versions of recreational physical activities for those who have been injured physically or mentally.

The program began with the life-changing experiences of medically retired U.S. Air National Guard Senior Airman Dwayne Parker, former 192nd Security Forces member and former Norfolk Sherriff's Office deputy.

"I had a passion and a dream for law enforcement," said Parker. "I researched it and joined the Air Force a Security Forces member."

Parker's career in the Air Force was not the only part of his life moving in the right direction. He was also selected for a special position in his civilian career.

"At the time, I also had been considered for a job opening to be a special agent in Washington D.C.," said Parker. "I had to let them know I was getting ready to go on deployment and I asked if they'd hold my position until I got back. They said yes."

During his deployment, Parker knew there was risk involved, but he knew this was what he was meant to do with his life. However, Parker said he soon faced an event that caused him to question his purpose.

"We went out to support a mission in Saudi Arabia," said Parker. "It was supposed to be a fairly safe location. I was up on a perimeter defense position and that's when we made contact with enemy forces. A green dazzler, high-powered laser sight for a sniper beamed into my right eye and permanently blinded it. I realized what happened, immediately called in for radio support and a few hours later I received medical attention. July 4th, 2009 changed my life forever, but I do not regret it at all."

Parker came home Sept. 10, 2009, and was medically discharged. He lost both jobs and was not sure what he could do.

"I was not able to return to my civilian job as a Norfolk Sherriff's Office deputy or fill the position of a special agent," said Parker. "That was a dream of mine, to be a special agent. It was a very hard process for me to cope with. I didn't want to see or talk to anyone. I was outraged. I just didn't understand what I was going through. I was lost and didn't know what to do."

Parker said he had lost hope until a year later, when he found a wounded warrior community not too far from his home in Newark, N.Y.

"I got introduced to adaptive sports last year at a Wounded Warrior introductory sports camp," he explained. "I talked to my wife about it and she said I should try it out."

Parker said he found motivation and inspiration through the Wounded Warrior program. He made friends, had a few laughs and heard some amazing stories. He saw people who had lost limbs doing things he had not imagined possible.

"When I got back from the sports camp, I wanted to do more," he said. "I knew there was nothing like it in the Hampton Roads area. I couldn't believe it. For one of the highest-concentrated military areas in the world, there was nothing adaptive sports-related for wounded warriors. My wife suggested it would be a great idea to use our own experiences to start a program."

Months later, Parker and his wife established a program called Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports. They opened multiple avenues for therapeutic recovery, such as shooting air rifles, gardening, modified track and field and other sports.

"The sports, shooting and gardening are therapeutic activities," explained Parker. "They help a lot of the secondary conditions, like bad sleeping and eating habits. Before you know it, you're laughing and having a great time. Instead of focusing on what you can't do, we help you focus on what you can do."

Parker said he believes what happened to him in Saudi Arabia brought him to a better purpose, to help others who have suffered similarly or worse. He said he is willing to talk to those wounded warriors who want to join the adaptive sports community and help them reach a better place in life.

To learn more about the not-for-profit Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports community, call Parker at (757) 470-2327, or email him at