Abbie Johnson, a 32-year-old former Navy Musician 3rd Class from California, was suffering from at-times debilitating post-traumatic stress when she started distance running in 2014 and got involved in the Navy's Wounded Warrior program.
Her commitment to the program intensified over the next several years as she ran, biked and swam in several Ironman competitions. She won a state championship in cycling, and took part in the military's Warrior Games in 2016 and 2018.
Now, Johnson's next goal is to run marathons on all seven continents. She ran one on Antarctica in 2019 and hopes to finish up in Africa next year.
"Sports have really helped," Johnson said. "I just have found that setting goals and being active made my symptoms a lot better and just gives me motivation. It's really therapeutic."
The Wounded Warrior programs have been essential to helping her recover from her post-traumatic stress and regain her confidence.
"When I started out, I was a pretty good athlete, but when I got involved in the triathlons ... I never thought I'd be able to do any of this. I did not think that I'd have the endurance to compete in an Ironman."
People often talk about sports as an entertaining diversion. But at the Wounded Warrior level, sports that bring together veterans and can be adapted to accommodate disabilities are literally saving lives. And the sports and other adaptive activities are getting more widespread and popular each year.