For Marine Corps Sgt. Ivan Sears, who competed at the recently concluded 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, joining the Marines was a matter of carrying on a family military tradition that dates back decades.
“I joined the Marine Corps to fight for my country. And my family, all the way back to my great grandfather, we’ve all been Marines,” Sears said with pride. His family, he said, has served in the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Shield and Somalia.
Sears was serving in Afghanistan in 2010, when he was injured by an improvised explosive device.
“My wounds extend from a broken hip to double bilateral amputations above the knee,” said Sears, who’s stationed in Texas at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. He’s served in the Marines for almost 10 years.
Although he never played sports in high school, as Sears was recovering from his injuries, he discovered adaptive sports and tried out for the Marine Corps team for the Department of Defense Warrior Games. “It was the first time I ever actually did any sports. I tried it out and had a good time with it so I just stuck with it,” he said.
Sears earned a gold medal and two silver medals at the 2013 DoD Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in track and field competitions. He went on to compete at the 2016 Invictus Games, where he earned four gold medals in track and field events in Orlando, Florida. He also competes in Paralympic-level track and field competitions and hopes to make the 2020 team.
He said he enjoys meeting the athletes at the Paralympic competitions because it “made me a better person because I’ve met different people from different backgrounds.”
At the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Sears earned gold medals in the men’s 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 1,500-meter wheelchair races; a gold medal with Team U.S. in wheelchair basketball and a bronze medal with Team U.S. in wheelchair rugby.
He also played in a sledge hockey exhibition match with athletes from many of the 17 different countries competing at the games. When he is at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Sears said he competes in sledge hockey, track, sit volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair soccer and any other sport he finds out about.
Sears said the camaraderie continues to grow among the athletes from the other countries from the coalition countries each year he competes at the Invictus Games.
“I raced against Andrew Bracey from the U.K. team last year, and seeing him again was great because we have a little rivalry going on but it brings us both together,” he said, smiling. “We traded track tops at the end of the races. Everybody is really friendly. I’ve seen a couple of people from different countries I’ve recognized, athletes from the Netherlands, Italy and then the U.K., everyone gets along.”
Sears recommends adaptive sports to anyone who may still be in a dark place.
“If you need to get help, people can help you or give you advice but the one person that really needs to do it is yourself, and you need to accept it and then go forward with it,” he said. “Because, if you keep on staying in that one dark place you’re not going to get any better in your life at all.
“It’s going to start affecting your marriage or your kids or just you personally,” Sears added. “Even though we’re all wounded, ill or injured, life doesn’t stop. We’re pushing forward.”
(Follow Shannon Collins on Twitter: @CollinsDoDNews)