By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
The Department of Defense Warrior Games are all about overcoming adversity, something former Army Capt. Frank Barroquiero knows all about. He’s co-captain of the Army’s archery team and a two-time Warrior Games medalist — silver in 2014 and gold in 2013, his rookie year. So needless to say, he’s good at the sport.
One thing he’s not good at? Being told he can’t do something. That’s how he got into archery in the first place.
“I was in the hospital in Landstuhl [Medical Center in Germany], and I was watching this hunting show. I mentioned to the nurse, ‘Oh, you know, I’d like to try archery.’ And this young doctor turns around and goes, ‘You’ll never shoot a bow,'” Barroquiero said.
That was one of many things doctors told him after a bullet shattered his right forearm while in Afghanistan in 2009. The infantry company commander was part of a team that was caught in a firefight north of the Hindu Kush Mountains.
“I knew there were a lot of them because I counted 21 rocket-propelled grenades,” Barroquiero said of the estimated 200-300 fighters that surrounded his 38-member team. During the battle, he was hit by a bullet near his right elbow.
“The bone actually did most of the damage. The arm blew out the side,” he said, displaying a scar that went down to his wrist. “There was a big hole. I could see the bone sticking out. It didn’t look good.”
Barroquiero was rushed to a German provincial reconstruction team hospital in Kunduz, where he had the first of 12 surgeries. He was also told more than once that his arm would be amputated.
“The first doc comes up and says, ‘Hey, get ready, I’m going to take that arm.’ Then I reminded him what it was that I did for a living,” Barroquiero said jokingly. “I woke up with my arm.”
A second doctor said the same, as did one at Landstuhl, where he underwent more operations. But each time, he woke up intact.
“I’m very lucky,” he said.
Barroquiero had never used a bow before his injury, but after being told he couldn’t, he was determined to give it a shot.
“I didn’t have anyone to teach me, so I had to learn. I tried to take what I was taught at basic on how to shoot a rifle and transfer it over to archery,” he said.
Barroquiero has little flexibility or feeling in his right arm, and much of the muscle is gone, so instead of using arm strength to pull back the arrow, he uses a release that wraps around his forearm to draw and hold the bow using his back muscles.
He became good at it, and his community based warrior transition unit at Fort Gordon, Georgia, took notice, introducing him to the Warrior Games. After all he’d been through, the games made him feel like he had a mission again.
“[Being injured] is like going from 100 mph to neutral and not knowing what to do with yourself,” he said. “The Warrior Games gave me something to focus on, something to train for.”
Now in his third year, the archer is focusing more on the team.
“I really do enjoy having people on my left and right again, where we’re working for a common goal,” Barroquiero said.
The archery team is composed of rookies and veterans who help mentor the younger folks before the big competition — something Barroquiero said is similar to a football game, complete with shouting spectators and about 60 shooters right next to each other.
One of the things he loves the most, however? What the games are teaching his kids.
“My children have been exposed to seeing our nation’s citizens that went to war with all kinds of wounds, and they’re there competing at a world-class event at a world-class level,” Barroquiero said. “My kids are used to seeing people missing limbs and going out and being dominant. That, for me, is one of the things I cherish about the Warrior Games.”
Barroquiero, who also participates in rifle and pistol shooting, now competes in several archery competitions a year and is working on his certifications to coach so he can work with kids with disabilities.
The Warrior Games, which are being held this year at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, begin June 18.
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