When retired, Sgt. (R) Brian Conwell came back from the 2022 Department of Defense Warrior Games a gold medalist, he found himself more popular than he could imagine. “This boy walked up to me in tears, first words out of his mouth were, I can’t believe I’m meeting you will you sign my shirt?” The former Army Generator Mechanic was on a meet and greet tour his gym in North Carolina set up to show off his medals and share his story. Part of that included telling the Warrior Games story.
“Most people in public don’t know the whole story they don’t know the purpose behind it. This program helps us recover with our brothers and sisters and helps us to move forward in the military or to move forward in civilian life and because of this program we know we are not alone,” said the Team Army Athlete.
To know this part of the story, you should know Sgt. Brian “Big Country” Conwell’s story first. He spent time at the Fort Riley Soldier Recovery Unit after an accident. Conwell was working with his unit doing inventory and left in a vehicle to get everyone lunch when he hit black ice on a wintery January day in 2014. He had to have his left leg amputated above the knee, while his right leg between the kneecap and ankle was surgically saved with thirty screws, four plates and a ten-inch rod.
“The first thoughts that ran through my head were my kids. I was so used to running and jumping, swimming, and doing all kinds of physical activities with my kids.” His bad day would get worse as depression set in after abusive and deceptive relationships did not help in his recovery, so he became a recluse, doing nothing else to improve and got up to 420 lbs. “I locked the doors I shut the shades and I just sat here sulking and I was really close to letting my demons win. But Oct 1, 2020, I said to myself You are better than this- do something about it,” said Conwell.
He took small steps with the help of his son Anthony to start walking again and eventually found himself back in the gym. He worked out and lost 142 pounds in less than a year.
“I started working with Joe Kenn of the Carolina Panthers, who helped me with strength training. He is the one who introduced me to Adriane Wilson of Team Army, and she improved my technique dramatically,” said the Team Army Gold Medalist. His new coach Adriane Wilson knew the adaptive sports world would change his life.
“Brian has an amazing story. “His quest for optimal health started him on his impressive life transformation. He is very inspiring for others with his self-propelled drive for change. Although he is still very new to track and field throwing, Brian has made a tremendous effort to travel to camps and train with coaches to help him achieve his athletic goals.”
Fast Forward a month after Warrior Games to his new world. Yes, it includes medals from competition but beyond that it includes a new purpose with even more meaning through the relationships of being with like-minded people, specifically at Warrior Games.
“The DOD and the military taking the time and spending the money on this program is 100% needed. We are making connections and networking with so many people to help improve our care. This is more than competing and winning medals. The picture is a lot bigger than that,” said Conwell who went on to say he received valuable advice from athletes of every service represented including our international athletes from Canada and Ukraine who also competed this year. You might call it learning and earning. Learning valuable information while earning victories in competition and in life.
All the attention he gained through adaptive sports and specifically Warrior Games has him realizing what a difference a year or so makes. Conwell is thrilled to be recognized and thankful to grab any platform offered to him so he may continue to tell this important story.
“It’s extremely exciting, it makes me feel humble and it shows me what I am setting out to do is working. It’s important to me now to help other people get into adaptive sports and fitness and take their life back. I want them to see it will give them purpose and show them that they can do what they want to do with their life if they just take a chance.”