Former Air Force medic participates in Warrior Games

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
As a former firefighter, emergency medical technician and Air Force aeromedical evacuation Airman, retired Staff Sgt. Ricky Tackett dedicated his life to taking care of others.

As a member of the Air Force team participating in the inaugural Warrior Games, people, his teammates, continue to be his No. 1 priority.

"I'm a team player, so I want to make sure taking care of our folks is No. 1," he said. "Even though we are here competing, we are here because we have limitations and mobility issues. We all have a responsibility to take care of each other and watch out for each other's limitations."

The Warrior Games are part of an effort to inspire recovery, capitalize on physical fitness, and promote new opportunities for growth and achievement, according to the U.S. Paralympics Warrior Games website.

Wounded, ill and injured athletes from all services are competing in shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus and shot put.

Sergeant Tackett, an injured Airman who also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, came to the games ready to compete in the 100 free sprint, shot put, rifle, prone and sitting volleyball. But due to a training injury, a stress fracture in his leg, he will only compete on the volleyball squad.

"I'm not going to quit and they can't make me," he said. "I've got to play because sitting volleyball is my only chance to do well for my team."

Sergeant Tackett said being chosen as a member of the Air Force team is a great responsibility and an honor.

The Air Force head coach, Cami Stock, said Sergeant Tackett has overcome a lot with his injury but is still "bringing it" for his teammates.

"He's still out on the court doing everything for the team he possibly can," she said. "He likes to be part of the team. I think it's one of the most important parts of it for him."

"It's been a great bonding experience to meet people from all different backgrounds with different injuries and illnesses," he said. "I'm not here to win any medals, I'm here to participate and have a great time."

While in the Air Force, Sergeant Tackett was responsible for the aeromedical evacuation of wounded warriors out of combat areas. After an injury and illness, Sergeant Tackett said he had to reevaluate his position as medical aircrew.

"I wanted to continue to fly, but at some point you have to look and reflect seriously on yourself and ask, 'Am I the best person in this position,'" he said. "As aircrew, my mission was to provide the best medical care I possibly can to someone, he continued. I had to evaluate if my injury would put my aircrew or the patient in jeopardy. I realized I needed to take two steps back and be evaluated (by medical professionals). I had to step out of (aeromedical evacuation)."

After medical retirement, Sergeant Tackett said he continues to dedicate his life to the medical career field and stays active by teaching emergency medical technician and American Red Cross courses.

Along with sharing his medical knowledge, Sergeant Tackett said he also shares what he knows on dealing with the effects of PTSD.

"It's still new to me and I'm trying to understand what I'm going through," he said, noting that his wife, a nurse, has helped him with his disorder. "Help, counseling and meeting other veterans, so that you are not alone, is key. A lot of people won't seek help because they are afraid of that social stigma (of mental illness) and isolate themselves."

"You really have to be a warrior and stay focused and get out there and fight those social stigmas and say, 'Hi I'm a regular person, like you I just have some sensitivities to some subjects or other surroundings,'" he said.

Sergeant Tackett said the Warrior Games environment helps him with his PTSD because he's in a community of people who understand what he's been through.

"To be in a community of veterans and other folks that understand exactly what (I've) been through and (being) able to talk to them and work things out; it's a whole other level of comfort," he said.

He said it is really important to make everyone feel comfortable in their environment and make his teammates feel like they're part of the Air Force team.

"The Air Force family is really close and they have taken excellent care of us," he said. "I think this is another excellent example of taking care of our wounded warriors. We're are all winners."