Defying the Odds
From attempted murder to the Warrior Games
Not many people survive an attempted murder, let alone getting their throat slashed, but Chief Yeoman Tim Vaughn managed to defy the odds.
One day in late 2014, while receiving a routine haircut near his duty station in southern California, Vaughn's barber randomly decided to try to kill him by cutting his throat.
"I felt this incredible pain," said Vaughn. "There was so much blood. I put pressure on it; it hurt so much. I guess my training kicked in."
Because he knew how to treat his own wound, Vaughn was able to keep himself alive long enough for paramedics to get to him. The barber was caught and prosecuted, but had no explanation for why he wanted to kill Vaughn.
The chief struggled through a long and difficult recovery process that was both physically and mentally demanding, all while continuing his active duty service in the Navy. Vaughn eventually managed to return to a "normal as can be" lifestyle after the incident.
"Going through that initial recovery and not being able to drive, sleep lying down and barely leave the house was very tasking. It took away a life where I was very physically active and fit," said Vaughn. "It took me a year before I could turn my head the most that I can."
Vaughn was able to find support through the Navy's program for wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor. The program provides individually tailored assistance with non-medical care for service members, and resources and support to their families.
All wounded warriors enrolled in Safe Harbor are encouraged to add adaptive athletics to their recovery plans to build strength, endurance and self-esteem. This includes competitions and a training camp where athletes can hone their skills, heal emotional and physical wounds, and prepare to compete in the Department of Defense Warrior Games. It's a challenge Vaughn is eagerly embracing.
"The plan is to go into the Warrior Games and do the best I can do," he said at the training camp, held last month in Port Hueneme, California.
"The importance of the athleticism is there," said Wounded Warrior athletic coach Kent Pagel. "But it's secondary. Its making them, letting them, allowing them, to believe in themselves, set goals and accomplish them."
Vaughn hopes to inspire and push other athletes. He said they may all have different types of injuries, but everyone can benefit from the training, competition and camaraderie, and coming together as a team.
"Being competitive is in my nature. Safe Harbor definitely put me in a good pathway to getting back to be physically fit and not only to want to help myself mentally, emotionally, physically, but the rest of the team that is here as well," said Vaughn.
He feels the whole experience is a life changer, and wants other wounded, ill and injured Sailors to know that this opportunity is available if they are in need.
"I'm back in the gym almost every day now because I have so much to look forward to," said Vaughn. "I got something to focus on, these games."
Vaughn and his fellow Navy teammates are scheduled to compete in the Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Denver, Colorado, June 1 to 9.
"This is something more to look forward to in my recovery process," said Vaughn. "So life before and after [my injury], yes there is a difference, but it was good. This is great."
Editor's Note: To get involved or to find out more about Navy Wounded Warrior Safe Harbor, visit: https://www.navywoundedwarrior.com/. You can also check out additional All Hands coverage of the Warrior Games: "Fish Out of Water" and "New Shipmates."