COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Their name evokes images of superheroes.
That image might not be too far off the mark.
The "Fantastic Four" is a group of four United States Marines who are participating in the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte in Colorado Springs, Colo. The athletes might not wear capes, but they certainly seem to have superhero-like powers when it comes to competition.
All four members of the Fantastic Four are amputees, each having lost at least one limb by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan.
CPL. JOSUE BARRON
Cpl. Barron joined the Marine Corps in 2007. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment and deployed to Afghanistan. On Oct. 20, 2011 during a patrol, a fellow Marine stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and wounded both Marines. Barron lost his left leg above the knee and is blind in his left eye and suffered several fractures to the face and right hand. He is now walking with a prosthetic and he is looking forward to staying in the Marines. His dream is to be standing tall when his unit returns from combat in the next few weeks.
CPL. MARCUS CHISCHILLY
Cpl. Chischilly enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in May of 2005. He deployed three times as team leader in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His fourth deployment was to Afghanistan. He was wounded on October 2010 by a pressure plate IED on a combat patrol as an advisor to the Afghan Police Force. He lost his left leg and suffered shrapnel wounds. He plans to leave the Marine Corps in 2013 and wants to pursue a culinary career.
CPL. ANTHONY MCDANIEL
Cpl. McDaniel joined the Marine Corps in 2007. He was deployed to Kajaki, Afghanistan, in May 2007. In August 2010 on a routine morning patrol, he stepped on an IED and lost his left hand and his legs. His progress was remarkable. He started walking on prosthetics in less than two months. Currently finishing therapy at the San Diego Naval Center, he is building a house in Destin, Fla., and plans to return to college for an accounting degree and become a business owner.
SGT. ERIC RODRIGUEZ
Sgt. Rodriguez joined the Marine Corps on Oct. 10, 2000. On Jan. 27, 2011, he was on patrol as a scout sniper team leader and while he was getting in position to provide security for his team, an IED exploded, blowing his right foot and part of his calf off, breaking his right arm and severely damaging his left leg. He was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan four times since joining the Marines.
Cpl. Josue Barron, Sgt. Eric Rodriguez, and Cpl. Marcus Chischilly of San Diego and Sgt. Anthony McDaniel of nearby Chula Vista, Calif., met while undergoing rehabilitation at the Naval Medical Center San Diego.
“We all had one thing in common,” Barron said. “We were all trying to recover from the same injury. We decided that we all wanted to compete, so we started training.”
There are 260 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans participating in the Warrior Games, now in its fourth year. They comprise five U.S. teams representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations, as well as one international team from the United Kingdom. Teams will compete in seven sports including archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball
Participants in the Warrior Games can compete in more than one event, and each of the athletes has chosen his own path. Chischilly will be participating in the swimming event while McDaniel will compete in both wheelchair basketball and wheelchair racing.
Looking to work on improving their stamina and strength, Barron and Rodriguez chose hand cycling as a secondary event to help them cross train for the competition that is closest to their hearts: wheelchair basketball.
Barron and Rodriguez are members of NMCSD Wolfpack wheelchair basketball team. The Wolfpack is comprised of 13 military and civilian members and is one of 10 teams in the West Coast Conference of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
According to Barron, the hand cycling helps build upper-body strength, which is a plus when you need to maneuver a wheelchair around on a basketball court.
“The competition is so much harder than just playing basketball recreationally,” Barron said. “It requires a huge amount of conditioning.”
“When I started the rehab program, the bike was the first thing I did,” Barron said. “It’s demanding. You have to be conscious of your technique. It requires a combination of strength and endurance. It’s pretty much the best cross training I could do to get in better shape for basketball.”
Unfortunately, overcoming the challenges of altitude (Colorado Springs sits at 6,035 feet) isn’t a superpower that Barron possesses. Barron admitted that the second half of the 10K course on Sunday was a bigger challenge than he had initially anticipated.
“The altitude here in Colorado made it really hard for me today,” he said. “We came out here two weeks prior to the competition to try to get acclimated to the altitude, but there was just no way to go from the altitude in San Diego to the altitude here without it affecting us.”
Though Barron and Rodriguez started the competition with the intention of bringing home gold, they seemed to be perfectly content finishing fifth and 10th, respectively. Another Marine, Ronnie Jimenez, took the gold.
“It was tough because we also both play a lot basketball, so this is sort of a secondary sport for us,” Barron said. “For me to come in fifth was sort of a surprise for me.”
Another surprise? Getting to meet the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry on the starting line.
Ever the joker, Prince Harry reportedly told the American competitors, “If you see a guy in a Union shirt coming up behind you, let him pass!”
When asked about whether or not he thinks the Marines will take home gold in the basketball event, Barron was optimistic.
“We’d love to win a medal here, it doesn’t matter what color it is,” Barron said.
“But, truthfully, all I see in our future is gold!”
Maybe that “superhero” label isn’t so far off, after all.
For more on the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/warriorgames/.