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 News Article

Warrior Games Athlete Shares Love of Archery With Family

By Shannon Collins
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., June 25, 2015 – For retired Army Staff Sgt. Billy Meeks, earning the silver medal in individual recurve archery and the gold medal in team recurve archery with Team Army June 22 at the 2015 DoD Warrior Games here was special, because his wife and son were in the stands.

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Retired Army Staff Sgt. Billy Meeks aims an arrow during the archery competition of the Army trials at Fort Bliss, Texas, March 31, 2015. Athletes in the trials competed for spots on the Army’s team in the 2015 DoD Warrior Games at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. DoD News photo by EJ Hersom
  

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He even gave his medal to his son, who wore a shirt with a hand-painted quiver and arrow, representing his future as a bowman.

“They’re my support,” he said. “Having them here helped a lot. In between my rounds, if I need to reset, I go say hi, give her a kiss, give him a kiss and come back and get my focus. Then I shoot the best I can, one arrow at a time. It was an amazing feeling, having so many Army people on the podium.”

Last year, as the former Army military policeman stepped off the plane in Colorado to compete in the 2014 Warrior Games, his wife, Erin, delivered their son. He earned a gold medal in the team recurve archery category and a bronze medal in the men’s recurve that year, but he said this year’s wins meant more to him because his wife and son were able to attend.

When the couple first found out their child’s due date, he wasn’t going to attend the 2014 Warrior Games.

“He originally said, ‘I won’t go,’” Erin Meeks said. “I told him, ‘Yes you will. You’re going to go.’ The labor worked out just fine; my mom was there. I sent him pictures, and we were in touch with him the whole day. It was an interesting two weeks. Of course we missed him, but I’m happy he got to be where he was, and he did very well -- a gold medal winner.”

A Love for Archery

Billy and Erin met through mutual friends and have been married for three years. Erin supports and shares Billy’s love for archery, which began during a senior leadership course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. During the course, the local Military Police Association held an archery tournament, and he was hooked, he said. He went to a pawn shop and bought bows for him and Erin.

“I had never thought about doing this sport until he came home with the bows, but I like archery because it’s mentally challenging,” Erin said. “I appreciate that he’s gotten me into it, and I love shooting with him, because we can do it together.”

An Outlet for Stress

Meeks said he came to realize that archery was a good outlet for the post-traumatic stress he incurred from multiple deployments to Iraq. After almost 19 years of active-duty service, he was medically retired from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Special Troops Battalion, at Fort Bliss, Texas.

“I didn’t even realize I was injured at first,” he said. “It took one of my first sergeants sitting me down, talking to me and telling me I needed to seek help. I knew my body hurt, but mentally, I had no idea I was hurt. My first sergeant said, ‘You need to come out and come forward with this.’

“I talked to a physician assistant about my traumatic brain injury and about my multiple outbursts at work and stuff like that,” he continued. “He said I needed to go to mental health on my own, and I realized something was wrong with me.”

A Calming Sport

“Archery is very calming,” Meeks said. “It’s usually just a one-person sport, but you know that you have teammates here to back you up, even though you know you’re shooting against them.” He shoots at local competitions at least once a month, and Erin tries to watch him compete as much as possible.

“I go to as many as I can,” she said. “I want to support him, and I enjoy watching him shoot in different types of competitions. He used to play baseball, too. He’s fun to watch compete, because he’s very competitive and athletic. He’s just fun to watch.”

A Family Affair

Erin said she competes as well, but that she is not on the same level as her husband.

“We’re working on me competing in different levels and being more competitive than I have been in the past,” she said.

Their son, Billy Jase Meeks, is 7 months old, and may learn archery when he gets older.

“I have a feeling he’ll be shooting Nerf arrows as soon as he can,” Erin said. “Billy already has his eye set on different kid’s bows for him. He’s an archer in the making.”

Erin’s father, David Brown, goes to the tournaments with them, and makes homemade recurve bows. He attended the Army trials and said he was proud to watch Billy earn a gold medal in the men’s recurve in archery and a bronze medal in the men’s air pistol.

Overcoming Injuries

“He is one of many wounded warriors who are trying to accomplish something in spite of their injuries,” he said. “I encourage all of them to take pride in being able to overcome their injuries and to take pride in what they did for our country.”

Meeks encourages wounded warriors considering adaptive sports to never give up on their goals.

“Don’t give up on yourself; don’t give up on what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “If you have a goal set in life, continue with that goal. There are people out there who are double and triple amputees who are competing. It doesn’t matter what illness or injury you have -- continue with the goals you have, make new goals and make yourself better.” 

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Related Sites:
Special Report: 2015 DoD Warrior Games

Click photo for screen-resolution imageRetired Army Staff Sgt. Billy Meeks accepted his silver medal for recurve shooting and gave it to his future archer and son, Billy Jase Meeks, to wear during the awards ceremony at the 2015 DoD Warrior Games at Marine Corp Base Quantico, Va., June 22, 2015. Meeks earned a silver medal in the individual recurve competition and a gold medal in the recurve group competition for Team Army. DoD photo by Shannon Collins  
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