FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – This week, a local Marine is leaving for Beijing to compete in this year’s Paralympics.
Corporal Joseph Woodke will compete as part of the U.S. Men’s Sled Hockey Team.
Although he now glides on the ice with ease, it’s the last place he thought he’d be a decade ago. He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan when he was injured in a way that would forever change his life.
“I was wounded by an improvised explosive device, an IED,” Woodke said. “When I stepped on the pressure plate, that initiated the blast; it amputated both of my legs above the knee. So I’m a double above-knee amputee.”
Woodke would spend the next year and four months at Walter Reed Medical Center. Eventually, the Michigan native was discharged and decided to move to Franklin. That’s where he learned about sled hockey from a friend and eventually went on to join the Nashville Sled Predators.
“As you developed a new skill, it made you that more hungry to get better because you’re like, ‘Alright, I can do this now.’ And then I was practicing with my friends and if one of them mastered something else or got a little better, then it just drove me that much harder to get better. And that really helped with my rehabilitation physically and mentally to get healthy,” Woodke recalled.
Woodke also thanks his sponsor, the Semper Fi & America’s Fund, which helped him through his journey and even paid for part of his training along the way.
“They’re a military non-profit, they’re out there to help wounded service members. And not just us, but also our families and everything,” Woodke said.
As Woodke jets off to represent the USA, his message to others is to take each day one step at a time, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
“Looking back at it, being back in the hospital, I didn’t know what life had in store for me and having this opportunity to once again wear that flag and compete at one of the highest levels, I mean it means the world… just to have that comradery back and be on a team where everybody’s so committed and just to represent my country and go out there and have a chance to win and prove myself to the world. It’s everything,” Woodke said.
The Paralympics begin on March 4. The U.S. Men’s Sled Hockey Team is competing for their fourth consecutive gold medal.