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Injured Service Members Compete At Invictus Games


At the Invictus Games, I mean, really every athlete has a story.


Yeah. This is an event that's a Paralympic-style competition for injured servicemen and women. It is underway in Toronto. This is an international competition founded by Prince Harry and inspired by similar events like the Warrior Games here in the U.S. The field of more than 400 competitors includes Jason Caswell.

JASON CASWELL: When you get hurt, you go into a place that all you see is I can't be me anymore.

GREENE: Caswell is a technical sergeant in the United States Air Force. This week, he is using his prosthetic leg to swim, lift weights, also throw a discus. Last year, he even deployed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He says none of that seemed possible just a few years ago.

KELLY: While he was stationed overseas, Caswell suffered a severe leg injury in a rugby game, and the recovery did not go as planned.

CASWELL: I had five surgeries and - at no fault of anybody, but something went wrong with all five surgeries. It's one of those things that I always say life happens.


CASWELL: I was sitting on the couch. I had a fixture on my leg that they were trying to line up the bones. Well, my son wanted to go jump on the trampoline. He was like, Daddy, can we go outside and you come jump on the trampoline like you used to? And I was - Charlie, I can't do that right now because I've got this on my leg. And that's when he looked at me and he actually told me I want my old Daddy back. So that actually hurt, and I actually became suicidal at that point in time in my life.

In talking with my wife, that's when we realized that it's time. I mean, nobody wants to lose a limb, but since the amputation, I've returned to duty. I'm pain free (laughter). I've deployed. I can do everything that I need to do as a military member and as a father and a husband.


CASWELL: This adaptive sports program, it's given - it's given me back, honestly, is what it's done. My kids love it. They love getting down and playing sitting volleyball with me. They love - they love playing wheelchair basketball or wheelchair rugby. And now, of course, with my prosthetic, I was - I can get on the trampoline any time he wants. So whenever he asks, I'm on the trampoline (laughter).


CASWELL: Coming to the Invictus Games, you're going to see different countries hugging each other. You're going to see different countries motivating each other even if you're in last place because, believe me, I've been in last place on some of these races and (laughter) it's - I want to give up again. I go back into that shell of when I was injured, and I just want to stop and just quit. But when you hear the cheers, when you hear your competitors yelling for you, that's when you find that drive, that motivation that we all need throughout life.


CASWELL: My life has culminated into this big event, and I finally can say that I have found Jason Caswell again. I have found Charlie and Raevyn Caswell's dad and Tami Caswell's husband. This is who I am and this is - this is what I am. And it's been a long journey, but I'm back to where I need to be.


KELLY: That is Air Force Technical Sergeant Jason Caswell. He's competing in this week's Invictus Games in Toronto. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.