Meet the TWENTY-ONE U.S. military athletes competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

By: Beatriz De La Portilla and Flavia Festa

TOKYO, Japan — This Paralympic Games will feature 4,537 total athletes. Of these athletes 240 represent the United States of America. Twenty-one of these men and women have paid their dues in not only training but in combat and have kept us safe from our enemies. We thank them for their service and list them in no specific order, we list them for you so that you may watch them succeed for Team USA.

1. Melissa Stockwell

Paralympic bronze medalist Melissa Stockwell, the Army veteran who was this year’s Team USA flag bearer alongside Chuck Aoki at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic opening ceremonies. She was a Second Lieutenant in the Army’s transportation corps and was awarded a Purple Heart and a bronze star for her service.

Classification: PTS2

Competing in: Triathlon — Women’s PTS2 on August 28.

Melissa Stockwell doing a leg transition at the Paratriathlon race. 11 SEPT. 2016. (PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King)

2. Andre Shelby

Shelby is a Navy veteran who started archery in 2010. He is the defending Paralympics champion after winning the gold medal in the individual compound open in the 2016 Paralympic Games. He also competed in able-bodied international tournaments including the 2016 Pan American Games.  

Classification: W2 

Competing in: Archery — Individual compound on August 27.

3. Lia Coryell

Coryell enlisted in the Army when she was only 17, but had to be medically discharged. She discovered her love of archery at the age of 51, and made her Team USA debut in 2015 at the World Archery Para Championships and Parapan American Championships teams.

Classification: W1

Competing in: Archery —- Women’s Individual on August 27.

4. Alfredo “Freddie” De Los Santos

De Los Santos lost his right leg following an explosion during his time in Afghanistan in 2008. He was introduced to handcycling during his rehabilitation. He has already competed at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Classification: H5

Competing in: Road Cycling — Road Race on September 1, 

Individual time trial on August 31. 

5. Monica Sereda 

Sereda is an Army veteran. She served for 24 years before retiring. She started cycling in 2014 and started competing internationally in 2017. Tokyo 2020 will be her first Paralympic Games. 

Classification: T1-2

Competing in: Road Cycling — Road race on September 2,

Individual time trial on August 31.

6. Eric Ryan Pinney 

Pinney is an Air Force veteran. He started cycling in 2013 after the Free Will Foundation gifted him with a handcycle. He is also a first time Paralympian. 

Classification: H3

Competing in: Road Cycling — Road race on September 1, 

Individual time trial on August 31.

7. Shawn Morelli

Morelli is an Army veteran. She started competing in 2010. She is the defending Paralympic champion in the track cycling event after winning the gold medal in Rio 2016. She will be in Tokyo with the ambition to win another gold medal. 

Classification: C4

Competing in: Road Cycling — Road race on September 2, 

Individual time trial on August 31,

Track Cycling — 3000m Individual Pursuit on August 25. 

8. Kelly Elmlinger

Elmlinger is an Army veteran who served as a combat medic. She competed in para swimming at the Invictus Games in 2016, and she started competing in para triathlon in 2017, after getting a multi-purpose prosthetic that allowed her to run. It is her first Paralympic Games. 

Classification: PTS 4-5

Competing in: Triathlon PTS 5 on August 29.

9. William Groulx

Groulx is a Navy veteran who served from 1995-2001 as a nuclear-trained electrician. He has represented the U.S. in wheelchair rugby at three previous Paralympic games- 2004, 2008 and 2012, earning gold in Beijing and bronze in Athens and London. 

Classification: H2

Competing in: Cycling Road — Men’s H1-2 Road Race on September 1,

Men’s H2 time trial on August 31.

10. Thomas Davis

Davis is an Army veteran. He was first introduced to handcycling in 2007 during his rehabilitation, and he began racing in 2011. He competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Classification: H4

Competing in: Road Cycling — Road race on September 1,

Individual time trial on August 31

11. Kevin Nguyen

Nguyen was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 where his right foot was severely injured by an improvised explosive device (IED). Nguyen has coached the Paralympic Division of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, and he is currently a soldier-athlete in the U.S. Army World-Class Athlete Program. 

Classification: SH1

Competing in: Shooting — R3 Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone on September 1
R6 Mixed 50m Air Rifle Prone on September 5

12. Elizabeth Marks 

Marks served as a combat medic for the Army. She began swimming in 2011, and she competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where she won one gold medal and one bronze medal. 

Classification: S6, SM6

Competing in: Swimming — 50m freestyle S6 on August 25,

200m individual medley SM6 on August 26,

50m butterfly S6 on August 30, 

100m backstroke S6 on September 3.

Bradley Snyder at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. (PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King)

13. Bradley Snyder

Snyder is a Navy veteran. He was blinded by an IED while serving in Afghanistan in 201, and in 2012 he was already a Paralympics gold medalist. He competed in both the 2012 and 2016 games in para swimming. In 2018 he announced the transition from para swimming to para triathlon. 

Classification: PTVI 1

Competing in: Triathlon — Men’s PTVI1 on August 28. 

14. Luis Puertas

Puertas is an Army veteran who was serving in Afghanistan when an explosive device hit his convoy and caused the loss of his legs. He took up track and field in 2007 after trying different rehabilitation techniques. This will be his first Paralympic games.

Classification: T61

Competing in: Athletics — 200m on September 3.

15. Scot Severn

Severn is an Army veteran who was struck by lightning while on duty at the U.S. Army Reserve and was thrown several meters, sustaining injuries including quadriplegia. He won the Silver Medal in F53 shot put at the 2019 World Championships in Dubai.

Classification: F53

Competing in: Athletics — Shot Put on August 29.

16. Russell Gernaat

Gernaat is an Army veteran. He took up rowing after his wife passed away in 2015, deciding it was time to start up something new in his life that he’d always wanted to try.

Classification: PR2

Competing in: Rowing — PR2 Mixed Double Sculls – PR2Mic2x  on August 27. 

John Joss III competes in the R6 mixed 50m rifle prone SH1 final in Rio. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine.)

17. John Joss III

Joss served in Iraq and he is now part of the U.S. Marksmanship Unit. He is a two-time Paralympian. He made the team in Rio de Janeiro where he finished 5th in the R6 event. 

Classification: SH1

Competing in: Shooting — R6 Mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH1 on September 5

18. Michael Gallardo

Gallardo is an Army veteran. He suffered an injury to his right Achilles tendon. After several unsuccessful attempts of rehabilitation, he decided to have his leg amputated below the knee. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics will be his first appearance at the Paralympic Games. 

Classification: F64

Competing in: Athletics — Javelin Throw on August 30

19. Terry Hayes

Hayes was a heavy equipment operator with the Women’s Army Corps. She took up Wheelchair Fencing when she attended a women’s sports camp after being diagnosed with Primary Cerebellar Degeneration in 2012, and she decided she would not let her condition keep her at home. 

Classification: B

Competing in: Women’s Sabre Individual on August 25. 

20. Raymond Hennagir

Hennagir is a Marine Corps veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. He was recruited to the wheelchair rugby team by the U.S. Head Coach James Gumbert after having played wheelchair basketball for about 12 years.

Classification: 3.5

Competing in: Wheelchair Rugby on August 25.

21. Eric McElvenny 

McElvenny is a Marine Corps veteran who completed an IRONMAN triathlon after being wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED) on his final tour in Afghanistan. He is also a motivational speaker. 

Classification: PTS4

Competing in: Triathlon — Men’s PTS4 on August 28.

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