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Health and Fitness

Masters of Fate and Captains of Soul:

The Invictus Spotlight: Retired Lt. Steven Simmons

It's day one of Invictus Games 2016. The track is already busy with hundreds of people. Athletes take the track on bikes of different varieties, each tailored for that service member and their disability.

Steve Simmons, a retired lieutenant and member of team USA, takes the track. His hands flex slowly over the handles of his hand cycle and his sunglasses reflect iridescent blue in the Orlando, Florida sunshine.

His Navy career cut short by a spinal cord injury, Simmons climbed out of depression and strengthened his relationship with his family through adaptive sports.

According to Simmons, having the opportunity to proudly represent the Navy and his great nation and feel the bonds of brotherhood once more is the driving force for his desire to compete.

I compete to inspire other wounded veterans and other individuals who deal with serious injuries or illness. There is hope and you are not defined by your disability. It means you find a new way to do the things you love." Steve Simmons

Three photo collage of Lt. Simmons (L-R): track race; close up; hand cycle race

Competing at this year's Invictus Games is the pinnacle of his adaptive sports career, only a year and a half after he credits the Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor Adaptive Sports Program for saving his life.

Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor, located in Washington, D.C., is the sole Navy organization for coordinating the non-medical care of wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen.

The program provides individually tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of the wounded warriors' recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration activities.

They also provide resources and support of for the families, support that the Simmons family needed.

Adaptive sports honestly saved my life. When I left the Navy I thought I lost everything. The Navy was my life. I had planned on doing a 30 year career was the goal and when I lost it, it was devastating."- Steve Simmons

Photo of retired Lt. Steve Simmons.

Simmons said the change took a toll on both him and his family, but a light shined through the devastation.

"I received an e-mail from Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor about an adaptive sports camp for January of '15 and they convinced me to turn in the registration form and I went out and tried a bunch of different sports and fell in love with it and realized there's more, there's still more to life." Simmons said.

This is just one story of the dozens told during the Invictus Games. Tales of hardship, loss, but through the spirit of adaptive sports and gaining back camaraderie and meeting others, these service members have continued on the path to greatness.

"It's all about the healing process; everybody here has gone through their own challenges, their own struggles, whether injured, ill." Said Simmons as cyclists zoomed past. "Everybody has had to deal with the hardships. The ups the downs, and through adaptive sports they have found another means of therapy."

"They find their release on the field whether it's cycling, track and field archery that's their new escape and that's their new way of moving on with life after dealing with such trauma."