Wounded warrior, retired Coast Guardsman to participate in “Invictus Games”

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Electrician's Mate 1st Class Paul Johnson, from London, finishes his race at the 2014 Wounded Warrior Swimming Trials at Naval Station Norfolk, June 4, 2014. The trials are an annual athletic competition hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee that brings together more than 200 wounded warriors from all branches of military service. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber N. O'Donovan.


Retired U.S. Coast Guard Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Paul Johnson, from London, finishes his race at the 2014 Wounded Warrior Swimming Trials at Naval Station Norfolk, June 4, 2014. The trials are an annual athletic competition hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee that brings together more than 200 wounded warriors from all branches of military service. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber N. O’Donovan.

 

 

Written by Retired U.S. Coast Guard Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Paul Johnson

Johnson, who was injured in a shipboard accident, is enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor, which assists seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen.

 

As I write this piece, I find myself reviewing my training process and all of my efforts to do the U.S. team proud at Invictus Games in just a few weeks. Yet, in doing the U.S. team proud, does that mean I am fighting for a place on the medal podium? In a word – absolutely. But this event means so much more than that.

I am deeply honored to have been offered a chance to represent my new country, my teammates and my service at the Invictus Games. I will be the only Coast Guardsman on the U.S. team. My story also is distinctive because I am a London native. I relocated to the U.S. in 2000 after graduating from college, and, shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, I was moved to join the Coast Guard. I may very well be the only competitor at the Invictus Games with such a colorful or, perhaps I should say, “colourful” background.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Johnson takes aim during shooting practice at the Wounded Warrior Team Navy Trials in Norfolk, Va. June 1-7.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Johnson takes aim during shooting practice at the Wounded Warrior Team Navy Trials in Norfolk, Va. June 1-7.

In the coming days, I will continue to intensify my training, trying to reduce my times in the 50-meter breast stroke and front crawl. I will continue to work on my stretches and strength exercises in the hopes of landing on the medals list in any of my chosen sports – archery, swimming, javelin or wheelchair rugby.

My desire to attain victory is brought into stark contrast with the recent news that my good friend and fellow Englishman, Steve ‘Fish’ Gill will, be competing on the U.K. team. He will face off against my compatriots on the U.S. team – myself included – in archery. I want to win the gold medal, of course, but I want Fish to medal, as well. This makes my preparation for the Games all the more interesting.

Ultimately, it is important to keep in mind the nature of “invictus” – both the Invictus Games and the word itself. I wish to remain unconquered, and I will remain unconquered. And, though we will train hard and fight for medals, all of the athletes at the games will be part of one team – Team Invictus. We are a group of individuals who refuse to be defined by our injuries – both physical and mental – and the perceptions of those around us. I want people to know there are no true limitations to what we can do. We just need to make a few adaptions to make possible what may have previously seemed impossible.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Johnson with his mother and wife on his college graduation day in 2000.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Johnson with his mother and wife on his college graduation day in 2000.

Besides feeling anxious about not being the best on my team, I am most nervous about returning home after all, London is home. I will see family and friends who may have preconceived notions about what it means to be a wounded warrior, and I will have to work to change those notions.

I know there are things I cannot do – there are things I will never again do. However, these things do not restrict me from being and doing more in the future. I used to feel limited by my restrictions. But the Invictus Games serve as a reminder of how far I have come and can still go.

I am Paul Johnson. I am a U.S. Coast Guardsman and a member of the U.S. team. I am and will always be Invictus.

Read the biography and story of Paul and other athletes who are participting in the Invictus Games for the U.S. team.

 

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