Always Moving Forward
2013 Warrior Games: Linda Simpson
With quick smiles and positive energy, one Navy Reservist does not let her amputation stop her from competing for the gold in the 2013 Warrior Games.
Throughout the seven-day event, wounded, ill and injured servicemembers and veterans from the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard will compete for the gold in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.
"Working alongside members of my team fills me with pride," said Simpson, who will compete in seated volleyball, swimming, and track and field's shot put and wheelchair race. "I can't wait to compete again with my team."
Simpson, married to Michael, a Kitsap County, Wash., Sherriff's deputy and Army National Guardsman who has deployed to Iraq twice, joined the Navy because she wanted to serve.
"I wanted to be a part of something bigger, where I was going to work with a team to complete a mission for the nation," she said.
During her 10 years of service, she worked with her Navy Reserve team at Naval Magazine Indian Island, Hadlock, Wash. Simpson said it was a beautiful fall day in 2010 when she put on her protective gear and rode her motorcycle to the Navy Operational Support Center. As she left the base through the lower gate, she was hit by a minivan, which crushed her left leg. She said she flew off her motorcycle and hit the asphalt. A stranger stopped and held her hand to calm her down until the ambulance arrived.
"I was blessed to have someone stop and be with me while I waited for the ambulance; it was surreal," Simpson said. "The silver lining was when the ambulance staff came to help me; they said they thought I was 20 years younger than what I am. I was in pain but I'll take 20 years off my life any day."
As she sat in the hospital after the amputation, she said she decided, "I can either sit here and feel sorry for myself or decide to move forward and do good things. I had to get on with my life, for me and for my family."
The mother of two high-functioning autistic children and a teacher at the Naval Avenue Boys and Girls Club in Bremerton, Wash., Simpson is quick to motivate others and to show children it is OK to have a disability.
"They wanted to learn how to adapt sports for people with disabilities, so we played seated volleyball, and I took off my leg. They wanted to touch my artificial leg and what remained of my leg. They learned that if somebody is missing a leg, it isn't that big of a deal," she said.
Working with the children and focusing on helping others through foundations such as the Fisher House and Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor programs keeps her going. She is even starting a foundation called the Northwest Amputee Alliance which will help people at the Harbor View trauma hospital in Bremerton with insurance, counseling, physical therapy and with help obtaining artificial limbs.
"I lost my leg but I'm the same person," Simpson said. "I could cry over it, but I decided it wasn't about me, it's about helping my children move forward, helping my husband, helping others. My goal is to always be a better person and to make those choices to help others feel better about themselves. You can choose to be happy, choose to redirect those negative thoughts into positive energy."
Simpson used her positive energy to practice with her Navy team as they prepared for the Warrior Games. She encourages people with disabilities to try new things and to choose happiness.
"It's a choice," she said. "Everybody should try something new. Try sports, do whatever you can, there's a lot of adaptive sports out there. You choose to be happy or unhappy. Take the steps to expand your horizons to find the happiness that's there for you. Everybody has the ability to be happy. Don't take anything for granted; life is so precious. I'm so grateful to be alive."
Editor's Note: Check Navy.mil and All Hands Magazine for continuing coverage of the 2013 Warrior Games May 11-17.