Motivation Monday – Meet MSG Sean Clifton
Written by MSG Sean A. Clifton, US Army Special Forces (Green Beret), Wounded Warrior
I am writing this letter to provide a background on my history, my injury, my recovery, and the teamwork that has played such a vital role in my survival story. By writing this letter and requesting your support, I hope to expand my team into Team RWB’s network of support in order to become even more physically active, mobile, flexible, and ultimately – competitive.
My survival story began on the evening of May 31st, 2009, during a Special Operations mission in Eastern Afghanistan. During this mission I was critically wounded while conducting a raid on a Taliban compound. Upon clearing a doorway of a Taliban leader’s compound, I was shot multiple times by Taliban fighters. Two of the wounds were critical; one round hit my left arm, shattering the wrist and rendering my left arm useless. Another round hit just under my body armor, entering my left waistline, critically wounding 5 major organs to include the sciatic nerve and causing major vascular damage. The medics kept me alive on the battlefield. I then spent over 6 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center undergoing over 20 surgical procedures, followed by over 2 years of recovery and surgery in my hometown of Columbus, OH.
Prior to my injury, I was always involved in some form of athletic competition. Although I was never an elite athlete, I did dabble in school sports to include wrestling, cross country, sprinting, and cycling. As an adult, I continued to stay active by participating in local 5K/10K races, regional marathons, and multi-sport Adventure Races. I’ve always been drawn to endurance sports, extreme sports, and physical fitness.
Two years after my combat injury, athletics became a primary form of rehabilitation in the summer of 2011, a few months after additional abdominal reconstructive surgery (from multiple gunshot wounds). After several months of recovery from the abdominal surgery, I soon began to work on core strength exercises to strengthen the newly reconstructed abdominal wall, as well as, condition my entire body. Several more months of core strength exercises then led to more functional fitness, including swimming, biking, running, and CrossFit. In the spring of 2012, after several months of training and recovery, I completed my first Triathlon – and was addicted to the sport. In the summer of 2012, I started to implement CrossFit into my physical training regimen, and once again became completely addicted to this type of training, fitness, and competition. These two sports combined (Triathlon and CrossFit, mirroring the “CrossFit Endurance” model) are my motivational forces that continue to inspire me to become even more physically fit, functionally fit, and stronger than I was before my combat injury in 2009.
My short-term rehabilitation goals are to gain mobility, flexibility, and strength, as it relates to CrossFit fitness and more specifically, Triathlon swimming. I still have mobility and range of motion issues in my left arm/shoulder, right hip/leg, and core/abdomen (due to multiple combat wounds). These combat injuries primarily impact my ability to swim; along with my limited knowledge/experience in competitive endurance swimming. Through continued physical therapy, and strength and conditioning, along with the assistance of a personal swim coach, I plan to push through these injuries in an effort to increase my swim training and become a more efficient swimmer. The strength and conditioning gained from CrossFit training, along with the personal instruction of a swim coach, will have a positive impact on my overall fitness within the first few weeks/months of the training season. My short-term goal is to successfully complete a local sprint Triathlon on May/June 2012. Additionally, I plan to compete in the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, CO with swimming as one of my events. The Warrior Games take place in mid-May, and I want to get as much swim training in as possible prior to the Warrior Games swimming events. My long-term goals are as vast as competing in an Ironman Triathlon, as well as, being competitive in the Reebok CrossFit Games. These long-term goals are no sooner than 10-years out; therefore, I have plenty of time to continue to train and understand the multiple techniques of both CrossFit and Triathlon.
This entire process of learning about recovery and training opportunities from Team RWB has been extremely exciting and very motivating. It is great knowing that I may have the opportunity to be a part of Team RWB and be able to meet the physical and athletic goals that I have set out for myself. Please know that although these athletic goals are of a personal nature, this entire recovery process, with the ability to be a competitive athlete, is in an effort to continue to motivate other Wounded Warriors and their families, inspire others, and continue to raise awareness to the efforts of our Wounded Warriors and Wounded Warrior support groups.
I thank you. My family thanks you. The Wounded Warrior community thanks you.