By Cpl. William Smith
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
Through sheer determination, Sgt. 1st Class Keoki Smythe has set the standard for what it takes to represent the Army cycling team at the Warrior Games.
“He is that omega, he is that distance machine,” said Master Sgt. Jarrett Jongema, noncommissioned officer in charge, Warrior Games. “He is one of those guys, when I bring him to the (training camps), I use him for the assessment. You have to be able to ride as well as him. People selected to the team have to be able to ride at his level.”
For Smythe, it is not one major accident, but a multitude of injuries that have led him to be eligible to participate in the Warrior Games.
“For me it is a little bit different (than for other competitors), because I don’t have that traumatic injury from downrange; my injuries are an accumulation of deploying, jumping out of airplanes, ruck running, and just being in the Army,” said Smythe, Company B, Warrior Transition Battalion.
Smythe said he was introduced to cycling through the WTB, during the Ride 2 Recovery, an event that helps wounded warriors get into cycling.
“It was more motivation for me, because I am with peers that have injuries, and I am able to relate and talk with them,” Smythe said. “The ones that really stand out are the double amputees that hand cycle, and they are just hammering it home. I am just trying to finish the ride, and these guys are like, ‘hurry up, let’s go.’ Now that I am going through the process of a medical evaluation board and I want to stay in (the Army); (cycling) is a way to show my command and peers that I am still viable as a Soldier.”
The Warrior Games are designed to introduce injured servicemembers and veterans to Paralympic sports competition, and encourage them to stay physically active when they return to their local communities following the event.
The games are comprised of five U.S. teams, representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations, as well as one international team from the United Kingdom. Teams will compete in seven sports including archery, cycling, shooting, sitting-volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball.
Jongema said Smythe’s positive and humble attitude has brought inspiration to others.
“He has such a great jovial attitude and you never see him get mad, but I like how the minute he gets on that bike, he changes,” Jongema said. “It is not that the smiles go away, but he becomes so focused on what he is doing. That says a lot for me in terms of selecting someone (for the Army team). The other athletes gravitate towards his capability and listen to him; even my coaches.”
Smythe’s positive outlook on life and his embodiment of the professional Soldier leaves an example for others to look up to.
“When I look at him, I see someone who upholds the Army Values and is a good friend,” said Sgt. 1st Class Noel Vargas, platoon sergeant, Company B, Warrior Transition Battalion. “He is a go-getter. He is one of the guys that you want to follow. If for some reason you ever doubt yourself, he is the first one to pick you back up and give you motivation to continue on. I think he is a model Soldier, especially for Soldiers in the WTB, the ones that, either physically or mentally, are at a disadvantage.”
Vargas said Smythe exemplifies the Army’s “never quit” attitude.
“He is in the Warrior Games, and I applaud him for that, because he found something instead of giving up,” he said.
Smythe said his goals are to do the best he can for Team Army, hopefully making the podium for cycling and sitting-volleyball, enjoying time with teammates and making friends with other teams he will meet at the games.
“The Marines, Air Force, Navy/Coast Guard, and the Brits will be at the games; it will be interesting to see what life is like for them, the obstacles that they deal with, and being able to relate to what we all go through,” Smythe said.