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DVIDS – News – Adaptive sports helped me develop a routine

ORLANDO, Fla. – No one knows better than Army Spc. Alexis Pantoja the importance of a daily routine.
“I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from a hit-and-run bicycle accident on September 24, 2022. I was in a coma for ten days. When I first woke up, for the first thirteen days, I couldn’t remember anything I had done. By the time I was remembering things, they were taking me to the VA in Minnesota to work on my traumatic brain injury and aphasia.”

Pantoja is now on Team Army, competing in this year’s Department of Defense Warrior Games in Orlando, Florida. He explained that his presence here is nothing short of a miracle. “One symptom of my TBI is not being aware of what’s going on. For example, on my first day in Minnesota, I told my nurse that I didn’t need to be there. Of course I did, but I didn’t know it at the time.”

He had to learn to write, walk and talk again. On his way to where he is today, he learned about disability sports, which he discovered at the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU). “I didn’t know about the SRU, but I liked everything they offered. I did chair yoga and volunteered at an equestrian program called Compadre. Those things helped me tremendously because they helped me remember how to do things. Even things like dancing, which I love, I had to learn all over again. In Texas, they have line dancing and I had to learn it all over again,” said the chemistry, biology, radiology and nuclear medicine specialist.

“In my job, we specialize in supporting units in combating chemical and biological threats. Unfortunately, I will not be returning to duty because I have to undergo a medical examination,” said Pantoja.

The silver lining, however, is that he still represents the Army in the Warrior Games, competing in field, track and field and rowing events. “Adaptive sports helped me develop a routine. Anything new kept me going because I had to relearn so much.”

Pantoja said he couldn’t believe he was here and was proud of his progress. “It’s exciting to compete at this level. And to see all the services and presence of Australia here is a big deal.”

Like any other soldier with a particular wound, injury or illness, Pantoja believes every journey can have a positive outcome. “No matter how unusual your experience is, it can still feel normal. It just takes hard work, dedication and – in my case – repetition.”

Today, this Soldier Athlete is always confident in his abilities and also has clear ideas about his teammates. “Team Army is ready! Look at what we can all do.”

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