Army veteran, Brent Garlic, will be competing at his first Warrior Games
By Courtney Cooper
Brent Garlic for Team Army at the 2018 DoD Warrior Games. (Photo via www.dodwarriorgames.com)
Clear skies and sunny weather conditions remind most people of endless pool days and summer vacation. For Army veteran, Brent Garlic, the bright sun and scorching heat reminds him of a tragedy in his life.
Garlic was tragically injured during a training mission in the Mojave Desert, just two years into his service. While driving trucks for training one afternoon, a fuel truck following behind him lost control and slammed into his truck which sent him, and the three soldiers who were also in the truck with him, off the rail and down a mountain, throwing him out of the door. The Sergeant broke his shoulder and the other soldiers came out with little to no wounds, but Garlic wasn’t that lucky. His head struck the steering wheel, causing a concussion and a broken jaw. He broke his shoulder, collar bone and multiple ribs, on top of a fractured hip and compound fracture to his spine. The oil from the fuel truck burned through his clothes and into his skin, and he was stuck there laying in the scorching hot sun, with burning oils, until a chopper came for him.
“I was awake the entire time,” he says. “Somehow, I didn’t know that I was paralyzed, but I complained about back pain and I was still trying to get up. I didn’t know my jaw was broken until someone told me that it was.”
The New Jersey native struggled to adapt to life after his injury. He couldn’t live in his three-story home due to stairs and steps, couldn’t drive his car or get into the bathroom.
“It was the same with my friends’ and family’s houses as well, so unfortunately I ended up losing touch with the majority of my friends because it was so different and so much of a struggle to accommodate,” he says. “That was, and is, still the hardest part of keeping and making friends. It’s easier in bigger cities because newer or luxury homes are made more [accessible] towards wheelchair users.
Garlic got involved with adaptive sports in 2004, just a few years after his injury, but didn’t know about the Warrior Games until the fall of 2017.
“I’m a competitor and I love being around competitors that have the same animal as me,” he says. “I have no idea how many years have passed by before I caught wind of the Warrior Games. I’m upset about that wasted time, but I am making the most of what I have now.”
Garlic will be competing in cycling, indoor rowing, swimming and wheelchair basketball. He has been playing wheelchair basketball since he was introduced to adaptive sports nearly 13 years ago and explains the sport of basketball as his “first love.” His goal for the warrior games is to earn a gold medal for basketball.
“Basketball would be my favorite sport of the four,” he says. “It’s my strongest sport and happens to be my first love, so without basketball, to me, this competition wouldn’t have the entertainment that it deserves.”
Over the years, sports have helped him in many different ways. It’s helped his physical side by keeping him active and training, but it has also helped with his career. Getting into adaptive sports opened doors for Garlic to complete his fitness and nutrition certification.
“Sports have helped me continue to train in ways that I thought excluded me,” he says. “I’m also much more open to speaking with people now rather than staying inside of my own shell. Most importantly, it helps me to help and train others. I get to help other athletes get to another level and just change their life habits to become better.”
Finding a new way to represent the Army is very meaningful for Garlic.
“I have a massive amount of pride to represent my people,” he says. “I love the whole group and it is amazing to be able to train, compete and build relationships with my brothers and sisters at arms. I feel that I truly belong here, and I love the opportunity to do it.”