Story by Joseph Jones on 06/21/2019By Joseph Jones, Madigan Army Medical Center Public Affairs
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Capt. Shirley Morales never thought she would be able to participate in adaptive sports such as swimming and track after sustaining multiple injuries. "If someone told me I would be able to run or swim again, I wouldn't have believed it," said Morales.
After an impressive performance at the Army Trails, Morales is now a member of Team Army, competing in the swimming and track events at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games. Morales credits the support of her family, her health care providers, and the Warrior Transition Battalion, known as the WTB, located at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
"It's a blessing and a proud moment for me and my family," said Morales. "At the end of everything is the understanding what you have to deal with and seeking the help you need, and to always aspire for a better day because we all only have one day at a time. Going for one more personal record every day, each and every time you do anything."
Morales has not only gained the respect of her teammates and the supporters of adaptive sports, she has also had a memorable impact on other service members who have had the opportunity to work with the versatile athlete.
Staff Sgt. Dylan Peterson, a member of the cadre team at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, recalls one particular moment with Morales before a swimming competition.
"I told her she would not like herself if she quit or stopped swimming," said Peterson. "I was that voice for her that whole time! She was my athlete; I know what ticks inside her mind. Morales jumped in and won silver for that heat, won numerous other medals at the Army Trials and is headed to Warrior Games in Tampa on Team Army," Peterson said.
"I'm actually afraid of water and I'm afraid of heights," said Morales. She fondly recalls rappelling from helicopters before her injuries, and is no stranger to overcoming her fears. "I only did swimming initially to cover-down for my team's needs. I used to panic once my face went under the water! I never thought that fear would be possible to overcome, and that was an amazing feeling, and with that I began the process of working towards overcoming other things, even my injuries. It all relates to conquering something thought of as impossible. All it takes is a little faith."
Her military career spans over two decades in two different branches of service and leadership roles. Morales, who is currently a commissioned officer In the U.S. Army, began her military career as an Airman in the United States Air Force, achieving the rank of Tech. Sgt. before commissioning into the U.S. Army in 1996. Morales hopes she can inspire other Soldiers by always supporting her teammates and never giving up, no matter the challenge.
"Being a leader is not always leading from the front, it's also leading from the back when someone needs a push, leading side-by-side when someone needs to hold on to someone's hand or needs a shoulder to lean on. Being a leader is somebody that can encourage and motivate others," said Morales.
The 2019 DoD Warrior Games are being held from June 21-30 in Tampa Bay, Florida. The athletes participating in the competition are comprised of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command. Athletes from the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Armed Forces of the Netherlands, and the Danish Armed Forces are also competing in this year's DoD Warrior Games.
For more information about the 2019 DoD Warrior Games visit: https://dodwarriorgames.com