Despite illness Warrior Games Airman rolls on

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Former Staff Sgt. Jeanne Goldy-Sanitate used to be referred to as "our lady of perpetual motion." A broken back and Multiple Sclerosis may have slowed her down, but at 54 years old, she's still rolling.

Ms. Goldy-Sanitate, known as Jersey Jeanne to her teammates, will be shooting, swimming and cycling during the inaugural Warrior Games here May 10 through May 14.

She is one of 17 Air Force athletes competing in these games against other wounded, ill and injured athletes from across the services. Her positive attitude is an inspiration to her teammates. 

"I told one of (my teammates), 'I'm old enough to be your mother,' and he said, 'No, you're old enough to be my mentor,'" she said.

Ms. Goldy-Sanitate served as an optometry technician from 1976 to 1984. During a training exercise in 1984, she broke her back when the ambulance she was riding in crashed. She was told she probably would not walk again.

"Six months later, I was walking with a cane," she said.

Ms. Goldy-Sanitate said she wasn't able to run the six miles she ran before the accident, but she stayed active by biking and pacing a neighbor as she ran six miles.

Ms. Goldy-Sanitate is no stranger to adaptive sports.  Since 2006 she has participated in golf, softball, handcycling, shooting, basketball, snow boarding and her favorite, Nordic biathlon. She earned five gold medals and a bronze from various veteran games and sports clinics.

"Sports gave me my life back," she said. "I may be 54, but I feel like I'm 21."

At one particular sports clinic, a U.S. Paralympics athlete and Air Force veteran, Sean Halstead, noticed her love of the Nordic biathlon and told her to take up handcycling in the off season.

Once she received her handcycle, she joined other disabled veterans and biked 350 miles as part of a "Ride to Recovery," in Florida.

Ms. Goldy-Sanitate said she bikes in support of disabled veterans, but also tries to help some of the wounded warriors she meets at Dover Air Force Base, Del., by encouraging them to get active.

"For some of the wounded warriors who transition into the civilian world, they'll notice there isn't the camaraderie that there was in the military," she said. "I always tell them to get into sports. Sports give them that camaraderie."

Her teammates said her attitude creates a positive atmosphere.

"She's a really positive person and tough competitor," said retired Master Sgt. Kim Bradshaw, an athlete on the Air Force team and Ms. Goldy-Sanitate's roommate during the games. "It's never a competition between us, just us encouraging each other."

Ms. Goldy-Sanitate said she is just happy to be on a team again.

"I'm totally jazzed, just the fact that I'm here, just being on a team," she said, "because we are a team always. The thing I always missed was the camaraderie."

Ms. Goldy-Sanitate along with her wheelchair basketball teammates will compete against the Marine Corps and Navy team tonight at the Olympic Training Center here.