By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
The tears rolled freely from her eyes onto the ground with a splash similar to the splashes of her nephew leaving the diving board to slice into the cool, crystal clear water at the Aquatics Center pool. Sandi Thomas was proud to say SPC Andy Kingsley was her nephew.
The Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Solider, a field artilleryman with the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, NC, was severely injured when he and his 13-Soldier artillery unit were attacked by a bombardment of mortars at a location about 50 miles from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
When the mortars started, he rushed to a nearby shelter. Looking back, seeing the other members of his squad trailing, he stepped back out of the bunker to direct them inside. As the last Soldier entered the bunker, a mortar round exploded, launching Kingsley through the air.
Kingsley, a devoted high school wrestling and football athlete, did not let losing his right leg above the knee and suffering several other injuries, derail his opportunity to play and compete in sports. The Warrior Games gives him a chance to show not only himself, but everyone else, that if you try hard enough–you have no limits.
“When I was injured, I thought normal life was out of the question for me, and now look at me,” he said.
The three days a week swimming and strength training Kingsley did at the Warrior Transition Unit before the games helped him during his 50-meter freestyle, 50-meter backstroke, and 100-meter freestyle swimming events at the 2011 Warrior Games.
During the swimming preliminaries, he qualified in all three events and is heading to the finals proving that his hard work, training, and dedication paid off.
Along with the support from his Family, Kingsley also has the support from his previous unit. More than 20 Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division showed up to cheer him on during his competition.
Kingsley plans to return to Massachusetts and pursue a degree in zoology where he would like to work training service dogs and other service animals for wounded warriors.
He also plans to start a youth organization to provide children positive time-tested ways to have fun while avoiding unnecessary conflict. This organization will incorporate the seven Army’s core values which he feels are essential in guiding children to be better citizens and keeping them mentally focused and physically healthy.
For now, he focused on the goal at hand. As the whistle blew, Kingsley’s aunt and grandmother Annie’s eyes froze on Kingsley. The hand-drawn sign stating ”Go for the gold Kingfish” was raised high in the air, moving from side to side. They knew Kingsley was in his element as he swam to the finish line.