Serving after Service: Air Force veteran and Warrior Games athlete continues to give back


 

Wounded Airman Stephen Otero playing sitting volleyball.

Wounded Airman Stephen Otero playing sitting volleyball.

The Warrior Games is one of many events that showcase the resilience and endurance of our Nation’s Service members and veterans. For many, the Warrior Games is more than just a competition; it’s also a path to personal healing. Air Force veteran Stephen Otero’s story is no exception. 

Multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan left Stephen with wounds both seen and unseen. He developed masses of scar tissue throughout his body and suffered from severe PTSD and insomnia, stemming from his exposure to multiple small explosions. Stephen’s struggle to manage the pain and symptoms from PTSD ultimately ended his military career short of his expectations.  He did not hang the Air Force colors up for long, however. After being honorably discharged, he still had the drive to serve and maintain the feeling of “brotherhood among veterans,” he said. During his transition Stephen got a call from a Recovery Care Coordinator about participating in adaptive sports. “I didn’t know how much I missed the brotherhood and camaraderie until I went to training in Colorado Springs,” he said. “It was just like a fire hose of positive energy.” Now, one year later, he is competing for the Air Force in Pistol Marksmanship at the 2013 Warrior Games and dedicating his life to helping veterans and transitioning Service members however he can. When asked about his experience with the Warrior Games, he said “My heart swells when I put on the Air Force t-shirt, it is great to be able to represent the Air Force in a positive way on a national stage.” His goal is to continue to compete and train in hopes of making the Air Force wheelchair basketball team for next year’s games.

Apart from his training, participating in the Warrior Games, and raising twins with his wife, Stephen is working hard to give back to those who have served our country, through non-profit work and his job as a veterans’ public relations director for a Houston-based mortgage company. He works with local businesses to raise money for disabled veterans to help them find affordable homes and transition to the civilian workforce. Stephen, like many of our Nation’s wounded, ill, and injured Service members and veterans, is proof that the Warrior Games is more than just a competition – and that physical strength is only a small piece of what makes a true warrior.