U.S. Paralympics

U.S. Paralympics

Despite losing arm, retired Army Sgt. Thorton still on target at Warrior Games

By Ros Dumlao | May 15, 2013, 9 p.m. (ET)

Retired Army Sgt. Lance Thorton during the archery competition at the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte
An avid archer as a child, retired Army Sgt. Lance Thorton competed in archery at the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – When Lance Thorton lost his arm while serving in Iraq, he knew exactly what kind of prosthetic he wanted.

"An arm to shoot my bow," retired Army Sgt. Thorton said. "After I got released from the hospital, I started shooing my bow on my convalescent leave."

Archery, along with fishing, has been one of Thorton's first loves. His dad got him into the sport, and when Thorton turned 7, he used his birthday money to buy his first bow.

He's been shooting since then. Even when his right arm was amputated in 2007 – when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle – he didn’t stop doing what he loved most.

"You look at it one or two ways; you can roll over and die and let it take over you," Thorton said. "Or you can just drive on. I look at it as these are the cards I was dealt, and I’m just going to play these hands."

He entered Wednesday’s archery event in the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte as the No. 2 seed in the compound category.

To his disappointment, he was upset by No. 7 seed Marine Corp. Matthew Benack in the elimination round.

"We went into the elimination round, and I just, to put it in words, I just fell apart," Thorton said. "I didn't shoot my game."

After his elimination, he called his wife back in Missouri, who was expected to deliver their second child.

"He gave up so much family time to be here," his mother, Teri Cunningham said.

His parents helped chip in, but when his arm was amputated, his mom was worried for him, especially when it was his right arm.

"I was afraid he wasn't going to be able to do the things he loved because he's right-handed," Cunningham said. "For him to pick up a rifle and a bow, and to come into this (as a top) seed, it’s amazing."

She remembered her son coming home a few months after his amputation and trying to shoot his bow with his new prosthetic.

"At that time, he didn't have a really good prosthetic, and when he would shoot, his arm would come off," Cunningham said. "But he would shrug it off and put his arm back on."

Previously, he'd use his right had to pull back and release the arrow. 

Now, he uses the hook in his prosthetic and his mouth to release.

In addition to getting back into archery, Thorton also built a home for his family in Stotts City, Mo.

He credited his wife for not letting him give up on himself.

On Thursday, he will miss the Closing Ceremony, but wants to make sure he’s back home in time to welcome their new baby boy.

"My wife was probably the biggest influence, and she wouldn't let me give up," Thorton said.  "I can do the same things, just do them differently. Just got to take the time and figure it out, and don’t quit. Never quit."

For more on the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/warriorgames/.

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