By Retired SGM Vondell Brown, AW2 Advocate Support Branch
SGT Kinga Kiss-Johnson wrote these words in magic marker on the belt of her wheelchair: “You can get there from here.” She explains that it was a big change from standing to sitting playing basketball; “life doesn’t stop” is what she sums that statement up with. Every time Kiss-Johnson sits in that chair, she sees and holds those words close to her as she straps herself in. Then it’s game on from there.
Kiss-Johnson is “KJ” on the Warrior Games Army wheelchair basketball team. She is very well loved. In fact, when the team won against the Marines the other day, SPC Juan Soto looked around and took count. He said, “Stop…where is “KJ”? Wait for ‘KJ’.” The team is not a team without “KJ” and her service dog, Balto. And soon, she and Balto completed the photo, with her dog lying down next to her.
It is remarkable that “KJ” plays basketball at all after sustaining her injuries. Kiss-Johnson was medically retired out of the Fort Gordon Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) in November 2010, receiving 100% permanent disability ratingfor combat-related injuries, including TBI, PTSD, left and right hip injuries, and spinal cord injury. It has taken years for her to recover and is an ongoing process. A true inspiration.
Sports are in her blood—she has played basketball since she was a kid. She’s a natural athlete. Standing over 6 feet tall, she takes on any competitor on the court. I remember playing against her in at one of their practices and she telling me as I tried to enter into the paint, “this is my house, get out.” And that is exactly what I did.
I asked “KJ” about her prediction for the Army wheelchair basketball team at this year’s Warrior Games. She said, “Gold. We are here for no other reason.” And from the way they beat the Marines and Navy, I totally agree.