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Retired Navy Corpsman Enjoys Friendly Competition at Warrior Games

WEST POINT, N.Y., June 20, 2016 — Medically retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Roel Espino earned a bronze medal in the individual compound bow category in archery competition June 17 at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Military Academy here.

Espino, who served as a hospital corpsman in the Navy, said someone was missed during the competition.

“Last year, there was an Army athlete who blew everybody out of the water in compound archery, and I was hoping to go against her,” he said. “I went as far as to buy my own bow. I’ve been tuning and tweaking all year long, and then I find out she’s not here.

I don’t care who the No. 1 male is. I just want to beat her,” he continued jokingly. “She’s really good. I was even cheering for her at the end of last year’s competition. She whooped us good. She kicked butt and took names.”

Espino was talking about medically retired Army Spc. Chasity Kuczer, who is the highest individual scorer ever and the first female gold medalist in the DoD Warrior Games. She’s also one of the top female archers in the nation. She’s not at this year’s Warrior Games because she’s in the Czech Republic at the Paralympic trials, trying to make the Paralympic team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro in September.

Call to Service

Espino joined the Navy in September 2008 and served for almost eight years. His brother joined the Navy as well. His grandfather served as a guerilla fighter in the Philippines when Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur was there during World War II.

“They took orders from American generals. Anything the Americans wanted, they did. There’s a fight right now for getting Filipino veterans who served in the war benefits,” Espino said. “I came in because I just wanted to give something back to the country.”

At his first duty station, he deployed with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines to Afghanistan and the Western Pacific. He said they sailed around Southeast Asia, the Middle East and other areas.


Espino said he suffered his first concussion during his second deployment. He was walking on the well deck to do his maintenance checks on his ambulance when the captain called for a quick change of direction because an Iranian ship was stalking his vessel. A Marine’s helmet flew up and smacked him on the head, he said.

He suffered his second concussion when he was stationed in Hawaii. As he was leaving an advanced motorcycle rider’s course, a young woman ran him over and knocked him off his bike.

“I find both of my concussions ironic, because a Kevlar [helmet is] supposed to protect me, and it hurt me, and the [motorcycle] safety course I just finished didn’t help me,” he said, laughing.

After the second concussion, Espino said, he woke up in the emergency room and thought it was 2010 when it was March 2014. “I was trying to look at the bright side of things. I was a single sailor in Hawaii. I was two pay grades [higher] from what I last remembered. I was happy and confused at the same time,” he said.

DoD Warrior Games

As he was recovering, Espino said, a Navy Safe Harbor representative told him about the DoD Warrior Games. “I was like, ‘I don’t think I belong in something like that,’ but I went, and I’ve been coming back ever since. It’s been great,” he said.

Last year, Espino earned a bronze medal in the prone open rife competitions and earned a bronze in the team archery competitions. “It felt great,” he said. “Last year, we honored a couple of teammates we had lost to cancer.” Espino said his father suffers from cancer and was here watching him compete, so it meant even more to have honored cancer survivors last year.

“It was great to dedicate something like that to him, even beyond Warrior Games,” he said.

Getting Help

Espino encourages wounded, ill and injured warriors to give adaptive sports a chance or to at least seek out resources.

“Come out; that dark place sucks,” he said. “You could be the life of your own pity party, or you could do something about it. Find that help; it’s available. No matter how little you think you’re hurt, you’re hurt nonetheless, and there are people, groups, friends and family that are there to help you out and get you better. You weren’t afraid to sign the dotted line -- don’t be afraid to help yourself.”

Espino said he hopes to make the U.S. team at the next Invictus Games and to compete at bigger archery events such as the big Vegas Shoot so that he can progress to the national level.

He also hopes to eventually train up to Kuczer’s level for a rematch, he added. “She doesn’t know me, but I know her,” he said with a smile. “I’m gunning for her. I’ll find her somewhere in the world.”
Distribution channels: Military