A Fighting Spirit
2013 Warrior Games: Joseph Frank
A vehicle accident took away one medically retired Sailor's dream of becoming a Navy SEAL, but it did not take away his fighting spirit or thirst for the gold in the 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.
"It's an honor to still remain a part of the Navy and to compete against the other branches in an environment that represents more than just competition," said Frank, who will compete in wheelchair basketball, seated volleyball, swimming, shooting, cycling and track and field.
Frank signed into the delayed entry program for the Navy on his 17th birthday with written permission from his parents. Growing up with grandparents who shared their military stories influenced him into join.
"I wanted to join for the challenges and constant activity. It seemed like there would never be a dull moment," said Frank.
Frank took on his first challenge when he attended and completed Surface Rescue Swimmer School in Jacksonville, Fla., becoming a ship search-and-rescue swimmer. His next challenge was attending the Basic Underwater Demolitions School.
While in training at the school, he was headed back to base when he was hit head on by a drunk driver who was fleeing from the police. He sustained a head injury, multiple broken bones and other life-threatening injuries. Frank went through several surgeries and received several screws, plates and rods in his legs.
He was wheelchair bound for three months and then on crutches. He can now walk and perform normal activities, but endures intermittent pain in his legs. He said his accident is the best and worst thing that could have happened to him. He was disappointed that he could not become a SEAL, but enjoys the organizations like Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor. "These organizations really provide a large amount of opportunities to overcome unfortunate situations," said Frank. "And I never would have met the people I've met or accomplished the things I have if it hadn't happened, so it's not too bad."
Frank said the best advice he received during his recuperation was to just keep moving, make forward progress and to accept his new normal. When asked if he could go back to that day, would he take a different exit, he said "no."
"I don't know where my life would've been if it didn't happen. I'm in a good place right now, and I don't have any regrets. I'm making forward progress and the best of my situation," he said.
Frank, who will be competing for his third year, feels the Warrior Games is an important program.
"Meeting everyone, seeing all of their injuries, hearing their stories, it motivates you, gives you more inspiration," said Frank. "I'm so grateful Navy Wounded Warriors -Safe Harbor contacted me in 2010 to compete in the inaugural games. They really take care of the people who are injured, following them, checking in on them, making sure the help however they can."
Frank, who now competes in cycling and triathlons, said he has seen improvements in his teammates and competitors over the years.
"From year to year, you can see how the guys are getting into better shape, they're more active, and they're more social," he said.
He also said the games provided him with close friends and a new form of motivation. He encourages wounded warriors to try out for their respective teams for the Warrior Games.
"You really have nothing to lose. You're going to meet a whole new family, people who are also learning their new normal version of themselves, people who may have similar disabilities and difficulties they deal with day in and day out," said Frank. "You can't fix whatever happened, but you can keep moving forward and get involved with anything and everything."
Editor's Note: Check Navy.mil and All Hands Magazine for continuing coverage of the 2013 Warrior Games May 11-17.