Story and photo by Pfc. Andrew Ingram
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
Staff Sgt. Krisell Creager-Lumpkins attended the 2011 Warrior Games to cheer for a friend competing in one of the Olympic-style swimming events.
Then a recent addition to the Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion, Creager-Lumpkins said watching her friend and the other wounded servicemembers and veterans competing against one another, pushing themselves and each other to the utmost of their physical limits, inspired her to overcome her own injuries.
“I will be in the Warrior Games next year,” she told her first sergeant during the 2011 event held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
“I knew my life would never be the same, but I still wanted it to be about something, even if that was just my own goals and overcoming my personal tribulations,” she said.
Creager-Lumpkins spent the next year in intensive training, strengthening her body and honing her fine motor skills in anticipation for the Warrior Games Qualifiers in early 2012.
“When I started, the Warrior Games were almost like a pipe dream, but it motivated me to get better, to try to get back to the person I was before,” she said.
The Army, Navy and Coast Guard, Air Force and Marine teams each fielded 50 wounded warriors to compete in the games. To earn the honor of representing their service, hopeful competitors must undergo rigorous selection clinics and extensive physical evaluations to determine their skills and capabilities.
Fifteen Fort Carson WTB Soldiers tried out for the Army team. Only Creager-Lumpkins made the cut.
“The process has been incredibly exciting,” Creager- Lumpkins said. “Just trying out, giving myself something to work toward, and seeing the small payoffs and improvements every day was the best part for me.”
Her determination to heal and improve set an example for other Soldiers recovering from injury, said 1st Sgt. Barry White, senior enlisted leader, Company A, Fort Carson WTB.
“It is nice to see a Soldier in the WTB pushing herself as hard as Staff Sgt. Creager-Lumpkins,” White said. “After an injury, many people will set limits on themselves. She is pushing past those limits and showing a lot of character.”
In addition to training for the Warrior Games, Creager-Lumpkins also serves as an assistant platoon sergeant and mentor for many of the Soldiers in her company, said Capt. Regina Stephan, commander, Company A, Fort Carson WTB.
“She is the epitome of the battalion’s slogan, ‘Can Do,’” said Stephan. “She has challenged herself and is the model for everyone around her to emulate. She can do it all.”
Creager-Lumpkins said the support and encouragement provided by her leaders and peers proved instrumental in her success.
“I’m not the kind of person that needs pats on the back most of the time, but the Soldiers in this unit know when I need that pat,” she said. “They know when to crack a joke and make me smile, and that has helped me more than they could know.”
In addition to competing in individual events, Creager-Lumpkins represented the Army in the Ultimate Warrior Competition, which ranked athletes based on their finish in the cycling, shooting, swimming and track and field events.
Throughout the week of the games, Creager-Lumpkins said she was amazed by the attitude projected by competitors from every team.
“It sounds cheesy, but I was really impressed by the camaraderie shared by all of the competitors,” she said. “Even though the competition was stiff, we really wanted everyone to do well.”
By placing third in the 100-meter dash, fourth in the air rifle marksmanship and shot put competitions, fifth in the 10-kilometer cycling event, and sixth in the 50-meter freestyle swimming event, Creager-Lumpkins clawed her way into third place in the Ultimate Warrior Competition.
Despite this achievement, she said her competitive nature refuses to allow her to be satisfied with the outcome of the 2012 Warrior Games.
“I will always wish I could have done more, but I know that given the circumstances, and how far I have come this year, this was the best I could have done,” she said. “For a lot of people, it was about medals, but it wasn’t about that for me. It was about being physically, mentally and emotionally able to compete in the Warrior Games, and represent the Army; and I am happy and proud of that.”
With the experience of one Warrior Games under her belt, Creager-Lumpkins said she is motivated to take the competition to a higher level in the 2013 Warrior Games.
“I started training yesterday,” she said, two days after her final event. “I’m better prepared now; I know where my competition lies.”
“My goal now is to get the gold medal in every one of my events,” she said. “I can’t wait until I can compete again and again and again.”
The example set by the Warrior Games athletes should inspire other wounded warriors to set goals for themselves, Creager-Lumpkins said.
“If you are hurt physically, it can make you feel mentally like you are less of a Soldier,” she said. “Adaptive sports, like those we compete in during the Warrior Games, provide a way for these individuals to see they are still good Soldiers.
“There is nothing more honorable than representing your country,” she said. “Whether you are doing it on the battlefield, or you’re doing it in the Warrior Games, the principle is still the same.”