Rank when retired/separated: senior airman
Hometown: Denver, Colo.
Current residence: Denver, Colo.
Years in service: 5
Injury/disability: Post-traumatic stress disorder
Sport/sports: Cycling, shooting, swimming, sitting volleyball, track and field, wheelchair basketball and Ultimate Warrior.
What do the Warrior Games mean to you?
This is my third Warrior Games. It builds back the confidence I lost through my injury. It also builds camaraderie and the competitiveness I had and gives me the chance to excel. I love to compete, especially for the Air Force.
What motivated you to try out for the Air Force Warrior Games team?
It was coming out to see people with similar circumstances and see what they were going through. There are a lot of people who have been through worse circumstances, and they still come out and compete.
Ultimate Challenge athlete heals from shooting, battles PTSD
by Tech. Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
A casual observer might note Jennifer Stone’s confidence and air of capability, but could not guess that she is also a disabled veteran and survivor of post-traumatic stress disorder.
After a deployment to Iraq, Stone was visiting her hometown of Denver when she was shot in a drive-by shooting. Bullets went through her chest and ricocheted inside her body, hitting each of her major organs.
She successfully recovered from her physical wounds, but Stone still needed to heal from invisible wounds.
“At first, all I could think about was physical recovery because when the second bullet went in, it hit all my organs,” Stone said. She didn’t realize anything was wrong emotionally until her next permanent change of station. “I wasn’t around a support system that had known me for a long time, so it was hard to explain what I was feeling.”
Stone deployed once again to Iraq, but this time things were different. As a security forces member, Stone was required to carry a weapon, but her fears kept her from being able to perform her duties.
“I couldn’t arm up for a while because I was having trouble around weapons. I wasn’t sure if people were going to be careful with them,” she said.
After speaking with a counselor, Stone was able to cope with her fear, and began arming up again, but on her next deployment, she was diagnosed with PTSD and eventually medically retired from the Air Force.
“All of a sudden I started having paranoia,” she said. “I stopped eating, I stopped drinking water. Things just started to fall apart and unravel. I started to hear and see things. It was all bad.”
Now, Stone said, things are getting back to normal thanks in part to programs like the Warrior Games.
“It’s taken me a while, but I’m getting there,” she said. “There always is going to be something that reminds me (of the shooting). I always think about it. It’s always in the back of my mind.
“It’s been hard, but the wounded warriors have helped me through it. Through sports, I’m building back my confidence. I’m getting my second wind.”
This is Stone’s third time competing at the games and she continues to push herself to achieve larger goals each time. Last year, Stone competed in swimming for the first time, and took the silver medal for the Air Force team. This year, she is competing to be the Ultimate Champion.
The Ultimate Champion is a pentathlon-style event. Athletes are assigned points according to their ranking in each sport they compete in. The athlete with the most points at the end of the games earns the title of Ultimate Champion. Each service is allotted two slots and this year, Stone will fill one of those slots as the first woman to compete for the title.
Stone said this will be her last year competing in the Warrior Games, but the lessons she’s learned from the games will follow her forever.
“I love sports, I love to compete and I loved being in the Air Force, so why not show that by competing in sports for the Air Force,” she said. “It’s still a job. You’re still fighting for your country, but in a different way.
“The Air Force was my first love because I felt like I gave everything thing I had to it,” Stone said. I will continue to do that. I’m going to go out, give it my best, and I’m going to go out at my best as well. That’s why I’m continuing with the Ultimate (Champion). They’ve helped me get back to some kind of normalcy, and I feel like I owe them the best of me when I go out. And that’s what I’m going to do.”