Athlete Spotlight – Suzanne Brown: Heart of the Team
January 31, 2023 | Story by Alyssa Ross | Navy Wounded Warrior
WASHINGTON – Before attending the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, CAPT Suzanne Brown (Ret.) didn’t know much about military service. She always loved the water and had a passion for serving others, and was always up for a new challenge. Growing up, she enjoyed sports, particularly swimming and sailing. She always enjoyed math and science and was introduced to the degree she eventually majored in, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. She entered the Coast Guard Academy in July 1991 and never turned back. She was commissioned in May 1995.
By October 2019, Brown enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior. “I was very blessed to have a couple providers that recognized I was really struggling, more than I knew or acknowledged at the time, with chronic debilitating migraines and pain but also PTSD from events in the past, some that I had suppressed for years,” she said. “My Coast Guard provider then referred me to Navy Wounded Warrior. I was hesitant as I didn’t think the resources were for me or that I shouldn’t need them or don’t deserve them. Looking back, I am so grateful.”
Brown was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain. Navy Wounded Warrior supported her throughout the Medical Evaluation Board process as well as helped her navigate the sometimes challenging transition before she was medically retired in 2020.
“The knowledge of all the resources available through Navy Wounded Warrior and the VA has been a tremendous help, especially when the transition unexpectedly happens.”
Brown found the adaptive sports program while going through various treatments at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. She is now a participant in Navy Wounded Warrior’s adaptive sports program and attends camps with her service dog, Holli Ann.
“I was able to push, or be pushed, to do more. I rekindled my passion for sports and being active in general. It’s still hard some days to get moving, whether from pain or PTSD or both. The Navy Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports program has been crucial in getting me back on track and continually reminding me there are people going through similar challenges and we can push each other.”
“All the athletes get out of bed every day and push themselves to do things they thought they couldn’t do anymore or never knew they could do. Their willingness to try inspires me! The camaraderie we develop and support we continually provide each other without judgement is just immeasurable.”
Brown’s dedication to her teammates has not gone unrecognized. During the 2022 Department of Defense Warrior Games, she was honored as the Heart of the Team. During the award presentation ceremony, she called for her teammates to join her on stage to celebrate the unmatched esprit de corps of Team Navy.
“I was shocked and humbled to be named for the award, but I really feel it’s Team Navy’s award, which is why we went up as a Team to accept it!
“We were out there supporting each other no matter the weather or how tired or sore we were, or what sport we were competing in next. With their support, I was able to sit in the crowded stands to cheer. That was HUGE for me, as it would be for others recovering from trauma. Adaptive sports is about pushing outside our comfort zones, as well as building interpersonal connections for support in recovery! The family we became through adaptive sports still continues far beyond the Warrior Games. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to do it with.”
In September 2023, Brown will represent Team USA during the sixth Invictus Games in Düsseldorf, Germany.
“Making Team USA for Invictus Games is still sinking in, I think! These opportunities to represent, support and encourage each other through adaptive sports are life-changing in the best way possible for all of us. The impact adaptive sports has on each athlete's recovery, as well as their ability to reconnect with friends and family, goes well beyond camps and competition. It was such an honor and privilege to attend the Warrior Games, and I am so grateful I have the opportunity to go to Invictus, too. Thank you to all those who helped make it all happen!”
About Adaptive Athletics
Fitness and teamwork are a way of life in the military. Serious illness or injury can profoundly impact that way of life, often confining a service member to a hospital bed and significantly altering their physical capabilities.
Adaptive athletics are sports that have been modified to meet the abilities of injured or ill individuals. They help wounded warriors build strength and endurance, while also drawing inspiration from their teammates.
All wounded warriors enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior are encouraged to include adaptive athletics in their recovery plans to build strength and endurance. Sports also helps build self-esteem, lowers stress levels and prevents secondary medical conditions from developing.
If you are not already enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior, contact us at 855-NAVY WWP/855-628-9997 or via email at email@example.com to determine your eligibility. Navy Wounded Warrior hosts a series of adaptive athletic reconditioning camps at naval bases throughout the country that focus on strength training, nutrition and a variety of sports. Active-duty athletes of all ability levels are welcome, with limited space for veterans. The program also involves enrollees in camps hosted by partner organizations and international competitions, such as the Invictus Games.
Numquam Navigare Solus – Never to Sail Alone
Sailors and Coast Guardsmen may self-refer to Navy Wounded Warrior, or be referred by a family member, their command leadership or their medical team. Contact the Navy Wounded Warrior call center at 855-NAVY WWP / 855-628-9997, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.