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Magnolia resident relishes experience at Warrior Games

By WALTER DOERSCHUK The Press-News Published: July 29, 2016 10:00 AM
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Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Stephanie Purpish, retired, couldn't pass up her opportunity to join the Wounded Warrior Regiment.

The Magnolia resident got a phone call after her retirement from the Navy asking if she would be interested in attending one of the regiment's intro camps. She would also have the chance to get involved within adaptive athletics.

"I jumped right on it, and I've been doing it ever since," Purpish said.

Every branch of the military has a regiment. It helps disabled or injured veterans mentally and physically rehabilitate through adaptive athletics, no matter their status.

The regiment has helped Purpish, who medically retired after being attacked while on duty.

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"I was sort of adjusting to being a civilian," she said. "I was really excited when I got that phone call from Navy Wounded Warrior because they offer so many different activities and camps to get you engaged in positive healthy activities."

Purpish decided to pick archery and shooting when she first entered the intro camps. She noted she didn't realize she would fall in love with archery, but she did. Her archery interest has led to become a coach locally and open an exploratory program.

"I learned a lot of things," said Purpish, who also serves on the park board in East Sparta. "You have to be very still and you have to be calm. It's not an aggressive sport. It's one of those where I have to just focus on being relaxed to be able to do well."

Purpish did well enough to compete at the 2016 Warrior Games. That came after several training camps and the Navy Trials where the top 40 were sent to West Point.

The games are competed in a Paralympic format with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and UK all going against each other. Teams are led by olympic coaches.

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Purpish said she did well, but she was limited by a shoulder injury. Her biggest takeaway, though, was being part of a team. She said fun banter was exchanged between the participants based on jobs within the Navy or the branches.

"It was hard going from making things happen to /well I guess I'l just bake cookies today," Purpish said. "So this gives me an opportunity to engage with my shipmates and my brothers and sisters within the military again."

The former Amos McDannel Elementary and Faircrest Middle School student noted she will continue to train in archery. In the next year of adaptive athletic events, she said she also plans to do more events such as swimming.

The Warrior Games have gained some national exposure recently thanks to a recent feature on ESPN. Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart was a part of the feature, and he hosted the opening ceremony for the Warrior Games at West Point.

Purpish said Stewart and actor Gary Sinise have "had so many words" about the Warrior Games. She noted, though, they could use more exposure.

"I'm proud of what we do because theres so much bad happening in the world right now and the stuff that America needs to see," Purpish said, "like look at this guy, look at this girl beating odds, not giving up and still showing you that you can't be stopped. I feel like it will get there because they are doing the right things for us."

Despite her injury while serving, Purpish noted how proud she is to have served.

"I'm the girl that cries any time I hear the national anthem," she said. "I love America. If I could say that I have any regrets about the military regarding my injury, it's that my career was cut short and I was actually only in for 12 rather than the full 20. But they still take care of me like I did the full 20, and I'm family."


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