A U.S. Marine Corps athlete participates in the 2019 Marine Corps Trials track competition at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 4, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Samantha Bray)
CAMP PENDLETON — Gunnery Sgt. Steven McKay spun his wheelchair around amid a sea of swarming defenders to score from the paint.
With spectators screaming "Go Marines!" from the bleachers at the field house, wheelchairs clashed, arms tangled and the race was on to the other side of the court where a player from the Defense Forces of Georgia scored a quick basket.
After two 20-minute halves, the Georgian wheelchair basketball team reigned supreme, winning 27-19 and securing the gold medal in the ninth annual Marine Corps Trials.
"It's disheartening," McKay, 33, of Fallbrook said Wednesday, March 6, after losing the game as a member of Wounded Warrior Battalion — West at Camp Pendleton. "At the same time, it was a good competition. They made better decisions. We made some mistakes and they capitalized on that and the score shows it."
Anthony Drees vividly recalls the 1991 Iraqi missile attack on U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia that claimed the lives of more than two dozen fellow service members — an event that would also put his on a new course.
Everyone joins the military to get something out of it, but not everyone knows what that something is. We all know that guy who enlisted because he was bored and, like, played Call of Duty once. Derek Weida wasn’t that guy. When, at the age of 17, Weida joined the Army, he knew exactly what he wanted: to serve on the front lines as an infantryman. That was his dream. And over the course of three combat deployments with the 82nd Airborne, he lived it. Then, during a night raid in Baghdad in 2007, an insurgent’s bullet ripped through his knee.
Derek Weida, founder of Straight Legless Clothing, doesn’t speak for all veterans, but he does speak for a certain type. His audience is largely shared by a growing number of military-oriented companies, organizations, and blogs that celebrate, rather than lament, the experience of being a veteran in post-9/11 America. It’s an audience that could be described, bluntly and without risk of causing offense, as a bunch of unapologetic grunts.