Soldier/Cowboy Launches Army’s Wounded Warrior Sports Program
May 28, 2008
On February 11, 2007, SPC Jake Lowrey was in Fallujah, Iraq when he and a fellow Soldier were hit by an IED that left his fellow Soldier dead and left Lowrey severely injured. Lowrey lost his right eye, sustained a massive head injury from the explosion and suffers from PTSD. Less than a year after being injured, Lowrey, who’s been a cowboy all of his life, was back atop a horse and roping steers.
“This pretty much keeps me going - it’s the only thing that does,” Lowrey said. “Without it, I’d just be hanging out in my room somewhere.”
On May 10th and 11th, Lowrey officially launched the US Army Wounded Warrior Sports Program, by participating in a team-roping performance at Denny Calhoun Arena in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The program was designed to provide active-duty Soldiers who have sustained life-altering injuries, the opportunity to compete in a sporting event. The Army Wounded Warrior Sports Program pays for their athletic attire, registration fees, transportation and lodging and per deims. Lowrey traveled from his home in Alaska to El Paso, Texas and joined up with his fmaily for a ride to Silver City, N.M. There, he, his stepfather and grandfather loaded up a trailer with their horses and drove on to Las Cruces to participate in a weekend of roping. All three of them participated in the Troy Shelley Affiliate event.
“This is one of the best things the Armed Forces could have done, because it’s just therapy for these guys who feel like, ‘I lost that,’” said Retired SFC Pete Escobedo, Lowrey’s grandfather. “If you really want to do something with yourself … Jacob is a prime example. He’s really trying. We’re thankful for the Army for doing everything it can for him.”
Lowrey did well in the competition. In the first round he successfully roped two of six steers, in the first round. In the second round, he roped two more and another in the third round. That left him in third place in the event. In the last round, his steer got away. Despite his injuries and the limit it places on his depth perception, Lowrey was encouraged that his roping skills will continue to improve. Since his injury, he’s already won an all-around crown in Alaska and teaming with his step-father, he captured a team roping title at the Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association’s 2007 World Finals that were held in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I’m not back where I was, by any means,” Lowrey said. “I just keep practicing and hope it eventually comes back.”
Since his injury, Spc Lowrey has struggled with coming to grips with his injuries. His step-father, knowing him so well, felt like getting him back on a horse and doing something that he loves is probably the best therapy for him, that he could think of. Over the weekend in Las Cruces, the three generations of cowboys took turns roping steers.
“Jake has done remarkably well in coping with his injury,” said his grandfather Pete Escobedo. “Instead of saying: ‘Well I’m injured,’ he says: ‘I’m going to do what I can. The Good Lord handed me this hand, so I’m going to do with what he dealt me the best I can.’”
His step-father and grandfather are both proud of what he’s accomplished since his injury, though both are aware that what’s happend to him, have changed him. Both feel it’s important for him to stay active and not allow him to sink into depression and self-pity. So, they do what they can to keep him active and doing things that he enjoys. By doing so, they in turn teach him that despite his injuries, he can participate in the things he enjoys and excel at them.
“If we can ever get him where he’ll just start talking again and intermingling with people and not being paranoid, I think life will be good,” said John Escobedo, his step-father. “When he’s on horseback or working out, he’s a normal guy. But we’ll be sitting at the house watching TV or something and it ain’t the same buy. We drove six or seven to the world finals - 14 hours of drive time - and he probably said three words. But you stick him on a horse or in the gym, where his comfort zone is, and he’s fine.”
Jake believes his desire to get back on a horse, get active and participate in what he loves, sets him apart from some of his wounded peers. While some of them were stuck pitying themselves and didn’t want to do anything, Jacob couldn’t wait to get active again and start doing the things he loves to do.
“Some of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation people told me about it (Wounded Warrior Sports Program) when I was at the Warrior Transition Unit,” SPC Lowrey said. “About two days later, I sent in the paperwork. I sent them about four or five events they could pick from.”
Army sports specialist Mark Dunivan, feels that this was the perfect venue for Spc Lowrey. He said he expects more applicants to follow and began participating in the program. He’s already been contacted by an amputee who wants to run in the USA Triathlon Physically Challenged National Champions, that is scheduled for July in New York. The hopes are, that as the word begins to spread about the program, that more Wounded Warriors will participate.
This is a great way for our Wounded Warriors to begin walking down the path to their recovery. So many of them were involved in different sporting events prior to joining the military, as well as during their time in the military. People like SPC Lowrey, Major David Rozelle and scores of other Wounded Warriors who have not let their injuries stop them from participating in sporting events that they love, serve as fantastic role models to other Wounded Warriors.
To discover more about the Army Wounded Warrior Sports Program, please visit the Army MWR website, or contact Army Sports Specialist Mark Dunivan by email at .