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Athlete Spotlight – Ruth Freeman: Turning Adversity into Triumph

August 13, 2021 | Story by Megan Trexler | Commander, Navy Installations Command

WASHINGTON – IT1 Ruth Freeman, a Durham, North Carolina native, joined the U.S. Navy in December 2009. In 2016, she was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer. As part of her treatment plan, Freeman had surgery to remove the cancer. Freeman shared, “During the surgery, they accidently cut my spinal accessory nerve, so now I have my shoulder injuries and my traps are 100% paralyzed.” As part of her recovery journey, Freeman enrolled in the Navy Wounded Warrior Program and joined the adaptive sports program.

Given life’s obstacles, Freeman isn’t letting her diagnosis or injury stop her. Freeman embraces the quote, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience in trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved,” by Helen Keller and uses the word ‘resilient’ to describe herself. Despite facing significant challenges dur to her illness, she chooses to embrace life and experience new adventures whenever possible

In the last year, not only has Freeman trained to represent Team Navy during her second Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games and trained to represent Team US during her first Invictus games, but she did it while being pregnant and battling cancer.

“After everything, I am proving to myself that I can be active again. I can show other people that have similar injuries or illnesses that they can still do it, they can be active and compete,” said Freeman.

In and out of the games, Freeman continues to inspire people around her. Freeman said training for the DoD Warrior Games and Invictus Games gave her a different view of life. “It gave me a new normal. It pushed me and introduced me to things that I never thought I would do again,” Freeman expressed.

Freeman continues to exemplify the spirit of the Navy Wounded Warrior program. She sets an example and strives to share this outlook with fellow athletes and others around her. She said, “I want to show people that anything is possible. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s important to just take things one day at a time.”

Freeman competed in her first DoD Warrior Games in 2019. As a sophomore Team Navy athlete, Freeman is slated to compete in cycling, indoor rowing, shooting, track, and sitting volleyball. Freeman has been selected to represent Team US during the 2022 Invictus Games hosted in The Hauge, Netherlands.

Navy Wounded Warrior is the Navy’s sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen and providing resources and support to their families.

The DoD Warrior Games are a Paralympic-style competition among more than 200 wounded, ill and injured service members from all branches of the U.S. military, as well as from international armed forces. The 2021 DoD Warrior Games will be hosted at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida from September 12-22, 2021. The invitation-only event features 12 sports: archery, cycling, field, golf, indoor rowing, powerlifting, shooting (precision air), sitting volleyball, swimming, track, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.


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