Tim Vixay Hero Story
Oregon native Tim Vixay joined the Marine Corps in his late teen years in 2007. “I wanted to serve my country,” he said.
However, about one year later, Tim suffered a horrible neck and spinal cord injury diving into a wave while swimming. The accident left Tim paralyzed, but it did not diminish his love for sports and competition.
Tim spent three months in San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) recovering from his injury and regaining physical strength. This strength would come in handy in Tim’s future, especially when he discovered the sport of wheelchair rugby.
Tim said he fell in love with the aspects of the game that he could most closely relate to: competition of sport, the camaraderie of working together as a unit and the physical challenge of staying in shape.
“As soon as I saw the sport being played I was hooked,” he said.
It was also at the San Diego VAMC that Tim first came in contact with Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans), speaking with a representative during his initial rehabilitation. “(Paralyzed Veterans) was instrumental in helping me transition from active duty to medically retired,” Tim said. Paralyzed Veterans encouraged him to stay active through adaptive sports and physical activity, he said, and he used this as motivation to move on from his injury.
Having become a fan of wheelchair rugby, Tim decided to get involved in the sport. He competed in it for the first time at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in 2009, in Spokane, Washington, just one short year after his injury. Tim and his team took home the gold medal.
After the thrill of the Games, Tim joined the Portland Pounders wheelchair rugby team. The Portland Pounders competes nationally in tournaments intended to promote awareness for disabilities and create a recreational activity for those with a spinal cord injury. He next plans to try out for the U.S. developmental team, which helps prepare players for the U.S. national and Paralympic teams.
Tim said the sport gave him the confidence he needed to prove his independence. “People are usually surprised at how independent a person living with paralysis can be or how active a paralyzed person can be,” Tim said.
Tim decided to give back to other paralyzed veterans, and got involved with Oscar Mike, a veteran-owned clothing company. He works with the project to spread its popularity and message to the world of wheelchair sports. This project helps other injured veterans with rehabilitation programs and has also helped create a nonprofit foundation that supports all veterans with disabilities.
Tim’s future plans include playing rugby as much as he possibly can as he climbs to new levels of ability and learning as much as he can from the experiences he has gone through and will go through in the future. He looks forward to drawing on these past experiences to help other veterans with spinal cord injuries, to “be able to mentor the newer guys.”
Tim also wants to make sure that everyone knows that having a spinal cord injury does not hold him, or anyone else, back from living an active, productive life. “I look forward to breaking the many stereotypes about persons in wheelchairs and educating the public about disability awareness.”
Rob Bartnichak is a Journalism and Mass Communications major at The George Washington University.