“Hello, I work with Iraq veterans here in san antonio. Most of them have lost limbs in the war and I would like to contact [you] and maybe get some ideas from [you] on wrestling as an amputee.”
The following are parts of my response to the letter.
“I have been told it was an inspiring piece and opens the eyes of many who thought their lives were over due to a disability. I do have the unfair advantage of being born with a genetic defect as opposed to suffering from a traumatic accident but I can’t say that has made my life any easier… being born without legs and fingers has just given me more time to adapt and fully accept who I am and my role in society.
I have since this time attended a public university met a woman, married and raised two little girls. All things I didn’t really think I was capable of. I lived in fear that I would not met everyone’s expectation but I have thrived and I even have a successful career in the government.
Wrestling was a very special part of my life. It gave me a lot of self esteem and it was a great way to keep physically fit, active in my school, bring public attention to my disability, vent any frustration through a team community and physical competition. And if you learn anything from sports it is learning to lose, dealing with it, moving on and improving your situation for next time. I wrestled for 4 years and every year I improved. For me that meant more then any trophy or medals… incidental I have 1 gold, 2 silver and a bronze. The pride of knowing I applied myself to a goal and came out a better person is enough of a reward.
I can’t teach you anything about wrestling that a book couldn’t offer, but my coach was the true difference. Our coach was a quiet and supportive man. He was a teacher at heart and he never made us do anything we didn’t want to. He motivated us through strength and honesty. I have seen some coaches that bully or yell and they just don’t understand that people respond better to positive reinforcement then negative. Once that person’s time as a wrestler is over they need to know that what they were doing was building character and self esteem that will last the remainder of their days.
My family has a history in the armed forces, specifically the US Marine Corp. My mother’s father, my father and my brother were/are all career marines and fortunately they have all come home without physical injury. They still suffer from the mental demand of combat but that is an everyday struggle. I have suffered personally through depression and I would suggest that you get these guys to put themselves into a hobby or community sport of any type. Build their self esteem and show them its not the end of their lives but a detour and that if they don’t learn something from it it will crush them.
Other activities I enjoy are swimming, riding on a skateboard, playing pool, and lifting weights. If these guys can just get a buddy and work with him in any activity they will form a friendship and then they can have someone to talk to. I don’t recommend a lot of group therapy. Its OK but it leads to “look at me, I have the worst story” but one on one from one amputee to the next can be very good for a person’s spirit. And tell them not to worry about women. Women love a man with self esteem and pride.
Always know your limits. You can’t do everything, not even a “legged person” can do everything? I know my limits and I try to set the bar high enough to achieve my goals and still leave room for improvement. I don’t beat myself up if I fail, I either try again or reevaluate the goal and approach it practicality. And this is important. Sometime I ask for help. Cause no man is strong enough to do it alone.
The first step to recovery is acceptance. I hope you can share a few of the words I have said to you and inspire them to make changes and learn from them. As long as they do that, they can be happy with themselves and maybe they will be some body else’s inspiration.”