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SPR CURTIS MCGRATH
WHEN Spr McGrath stood on the win-
ners' podium at the US Marine Corps
Paralympic Trials he felt like a champion
for the first time since school sports
Spr McGrath lost both legs in an
IED blast in Afghanistan in 2012 but
that did not stop the young soldier win-
ning gold in the double amputee 50m
and 100m freestyle, as well as the 50m
Spr McGrath, of 21 Const Sqn,
competed in the trials on prosthetic legs
only six months after the IED incident in
Uruzgan province that almost claimed
The competition at the trials helped
Spr McGrath enjoy the exhilaration of
competitive sports once again.
"I did a lot of swimming at school
which helped me a lot at the trials," he
"It was an awesome feeling to be on
the winners' podium once again."
The Brisbane-based soldier, who
was born in New Zealand, joined the
Army at age 18 out of a sense of duty
and still enjoys taking on the challenges
his job provides.
PTE NATHAN WHITTINGTON
AFTER a jet-ski accident in Townsville in 2010
cost Pte Whittington his right foot, he worried
about his career in the Army.
The driver from 10FSB was 19 and had only
been in the Army for 10 months.
"I remember waking up in the hospital and my
sergeant and lieutenant were there, and asking
them 'do I still have a job in the Army?' "
But through Exercise Wounded Warrior, Pte
Whittington found himself on the winners' podium,
draped in the Australian flag, after winning a gold
medal at the US Marines Corps Paralympic Trials.
Pte Whittington, who is posted to RMC HQ,
won gold in the combined 100m sprint single
below knee and double amputee below knee
event, and placed fourth in the 50m and 100m
freestyle swimming events.
"At the time of the accident I didn't know what
would happen with my future career in the Army,"
"But through the ADF's Adaptive Sports
Program I have experienced one of the proudest
moments in my whole life, when I won gold for
Australia at the trials."
Pte Whittington said competing in the trials
opened his eyes to the plight of other coalition
soldiers who battled through life with far more
serious wounds and injuries than he considered
"The mateship among all of the competitors
was a highlight but the whole experience made
me see that my injury is not that bad compared to
others," he said.
Pte Whittington said the accident changed his
life in many ways, including on the field.
"I used to be a team-player, competing in
cricket and touch footy and other team sports," he
"But since the accident I pursued individual
sports such as swimming and track and field."
He is now in full-time sports training while
studying for his Higher School Certificate.
After adapting to a prosthetic leg and
meeting the high-performance manager from
the Australian Paralympics Committee, Pte
Whittington is now training for Australian interna-
tional team sport selection.
SGT SARAH WEBSTER
AS HER physical scars fade, Sgt Webster is at long
last finding peace of mind as a wounded warrior.
In a rocket attack in Iraq in 2006 she sustained a
fractured skull, a torn spleen, a dislocated hip, a bro-
ken kneecap and blunt-force trauma to her calf.
But Sgt Webster, of Townsville, recovered quickly
and deployed to Afghanistan just 18 months after
Sgt Webster had to learn to walk again after her
wounds, making her gold-medal efforts in the 100m
track, 1500m track, 50m and 100m women's freestyle
all the sweeter.
The 12-year Army veteran also placed second
in the 50m women's back-stroke to snatch a silver
"The trials are not just about the opportunity to
compete but sharing advice with other wounded and
injured veterans," she said.
Although Sgt Webster's rehabilitation has pro-
gressed well, she still suffers from ongoing orthopae-
dic issues and degenerative arthritis as a result of the
wounds but enjoys time spent with others on Exercise
Wounded Warrior programs.
"The USMC welcomes all competitors with open
arms and creates a sense of belonging at the trials.
The level of support from the USMC members and
coaches at the trials is not like anything that I had
experienced before," she said.
"I am no longer suited to team sports, but I com-
pete in equestrian with a group of friends so we make
it feel like a team. The USMC Trials are a bit like that
as well, which is great."
Making a splash: Spr
Curtis McGrath enjoys a
well-earned rest after his
winning laps in the pool.
Golden girl: Sgt
basks in the
moment atop the
after her efforts on
Fast feet: Pte Nathan Whittington
races down the track at the US
Marine Corps Paralympic Trials at
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