Warrior Games 2013: Wounded Academy grad uses Games to help recovery

  • Published
  • By Randy Roughton
  • Air Force News Service
About three years after a bullet in his head in Iraq dramatically changed the course of his life, Capt. Wes Glisson can put his sentences together again as he continues his recovery from traumatic brain injury. He's able to remember just about everything about his life except for the shooting, which he's perfectly happy to never recall.

Rehabilitation after he was shot in February 2010 came slow for Glisson. After he awoke in his hospital bed at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda with his wife and fellow Air Force Academy graduate, Maj. Amy Glisson, at his side, he had to learn to talk and walk all over again.

Seeing the Academy mascot logo and not being able to conjure the word "falcon" was especially frustrating.

"I could see what I was looking at, but getting the words to come out of my mouth just would not work," Glisson said. "If somebody had a cup, I could look at it, but I couldn't understand what to do with it. If somebody asked me questions, I don't even know if I said yes or no.

"When I was in Tampa, the doctor would put up a picture of the Air Force falcon, and every day, he'd ask me, 'What is this?' I couldn't make out the word. I would get so mad at myself, somebody who went to the Academy and not able to remember that word."

At first, Glisson did not want to try out for the Games because he didn't think the way he was wounded measured up to wounded warriors who were injured in combat or by roadside bombs. But as he heard about others who were sick and some injured in non-duty related accidents, it finally made sense for him to attend the team's selection camp about a month before the competition.

But it still took some convincing from Tony Jasso, Wounded Warrior Program care manager, to get him to try out for a spot on the Air Force Warrior Games team, and even more coaxing to talk him into staying after he arrived for selection camp to train in cycling and as an alternate in several track and field events. Glisson was finally convinced after he talked with Dr. James Bales, head coach of the Air Force Warrior Games team who will ride with Glisson on his tandem bike.

"Dr. Bales is also an Academy grad," Glisson said. "He told me he understood what happened with me and that he'd love to ride with me. So I said, 'OK, I'm in.' It was really windy and cold on our first day, but after we did our first lap, it got a little better. He told me not to worry, that we'd get a better bike, and it will work out."

As he's looking forward to the Games, Glisson is looking forward more to watching his teammates compete as he is for his own events.

"I am really excited, not just for me, but just watching the Games, with all of these people I've been here at the camp with," he said. "I really want to watch these people. Everyone has been so down to earth and has their own story of why they're here. This is the part of the Warrior Games that made me decide to do this. I'm missing that family aspect from the Air Force. As a civil engineer, you have a big team, and you're always together in whatever you're doing. I haven't had that for four years. It makes me feel like I'm back at home with my Air Force family again.

"And I really hope we win."