Training for athletic competition is strenuous enough, but when you add in a spinal injury, a wheelchair and partial paralysis, the task becomes even more difficult.
Nevertheless, Marine veteran Private First Class Bruce Sanders said he handles it with exercise and meditation.
“I am a firm believer of prayer,” he said.
The Webb, Mississippi native, who now resides at a nursing home in Ruleville, competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Louisville, Kentucky, July 10-17 and brought home a gold medal in bowling and the slalom, a silver medal in Boccia ball and a bronze award in the wheelchair rally.
“The Lord blessed me,” he said. “I also competed in power soccer, but didn't place. I think four out of five is not too bad.”
Sanders has been competing in the NVWG since 2006.
His very first competition was in Anchorage, Alaska.
Looking back over his years of taking part in the games, Sanders said he has accumulated at least 10 gold medals, 7 or 8 silver and 6 bronze honors.
For him, getting ready for the nearly week-long competition can be an arduous undertaking. “Because I am a C-5 quadriplegic, I can't wait ‘till the last minute,” he said. And in addition to the physical constraints, Sanders added, “It takes me months in advance to raise money and plan everything down to the last detail.”
He was in the U.S. Marine Corp from 1978-1981 and during that time he injured the C-5 spinal motion segment of his cervical spine in a military pickup accident; however, it was 20-years later before the injury truly affected his motion, it has left him paralyzed from the chest down.
He spent several years in a nursing home in Coahoma County before arriving at the Ruleville facility about 10 years ago. “I thank my family, friends, and caregiver Anna Wright. I would like to give honor and glory to God and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I also would like to thank (the) Ruleville Nursing and Rehabilitation staff,” Sanders said.
The NVWG athletic competitions draw hundreds of military veterans from across America who participate in more than 20 events that are executed with the help of thousands of volunteers and is held in a different city each year.
Sanders said he became involved through his association with the Memphis Veterans Association Medical Center and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
According to information listed on its website, the Wheelchair Games moves from city to city annually to introduce new veterans, partners, and volunteers to the event and the world of wheelchair sports.
In all events, athletes compete against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience, and age. The Wheelchair Games will celebrate its 40th anniversary July 3-8, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.