Barrie native Adam Jones recently participated in The Invictus Games

David Mann, Special to the Examiner

Rémi Thériault/Carleton University
Barrie native Adam Jones recently participated in The Invictus Games after recovering from a brain injury.

Rémi Thériault/Carleton University Barrie native Adam Jones recently participated in The Invictus Games after recovering from a brain injury.

Growing up in a multigenerational military family, it was only second nature that Adam Jones would follow in his father's footsteps in uniform.

In May of 2014, his service for Canada came to a crashing halt. While training at a military base in Meaford, Jones fell 25 feet from a repelling tower, causing a traumatic brain injury that has plagued him ever since.

"It affects you on every level," Jones said, reminiscing of his dreadful injury, "The most visible symptoms were the loss of motor skills, I had to relearn how to walk and talk. I had a speech pathologist because my vocabulary wasn't there. I had to really work on my memory, reading was difficult, and writing."

As the St. Peter's graduate began to make strides of improvement, a void still remained in his life from no longer being a part of the military. He had in some ways, lost his sense of purpose.

"It's really easy to fall into depression. Soldiers' lives are defined by routine. You get up, you get ready for inspection, you go have meals, there's always something to do. When you're injured, you don't have that," said Jones.

During his medical rehabilitation, physiotherapists worked with Jones to help regain strength and co-ordination. Playing sports posed an opportunity to further test his abilities as a way of recovery.

The Barrie native became immersed in rowing, track and field, and ballet. These sports have helped Jones overcome more than just physical limitations.

"Sports has given me a reason to get up. I still have that system in place, and I find that to be fulfilling," said the former soldier.

Despite playing hockey and soccer as a kid, Jones never considered himself athletic so the idea of Invictus Games was quickly filtered out.

"When I first heard about it, I didn't think that I was good enough at any one sport to represent Canada, I think that was a preconception that many members of the team battled with," said the Carleton University student, studying Greek and Roman studies.

"What I realized is, I didn't recover well. Invictus isn't necessarily about athletics, it's about recovery," Jones added.

The Invictus Games were incepted in 2014 by advisors of Prince Harry. The multi-sport Paralympic event offers wounded service personnel an opportunity to participate in sports as a way of healing.

The competition level varies widely because the qualification is based solely on biography than athletics.

"I thought, I may not be the best runner, but the fact that I can run at all shows the work that these guys (medical team) put in, and they deserve the recognition," Jones explained. "They took me from a place where I could barely walk to a place where I could do sports."

After competing in the 2017 Games in Toronto, Jones has no regrets.

"For a lot of service members, me included, injury is a very isolated personal experience. You're on your own. It meant a lot to not be alone," said Jones, both referring to his fellow athletes and the supporting spectators.

Jones participated in a number of track and rowing events. Although he didn't medal, his relentlessness to compete in spite of adversity beautifully encapsulated the purpose of Invictus Games.

"In the four minutes (rowing) race about three minutes in, while I was winning I started to have a lot of symptoms," Jones described. "The medical team started to work on me and right at the one minute, I thought 'you know what, I didn't come all the way here to give up. Let's give it a shot.' My goal was just to stay conscious to finish. So the fact that I came in fifth place, that, to me, is better than winning gold."

Jones' collapse following the race demonstrated the sheer agony that he was fighting through.

Toronto's Invictus Games highlighted Jones as a hero among heroes: men and women overcoming battle wounds physically, socially, and psychologically through sport.

"I feel like even though my (military) career ended before I would have liked it to, I did my part for Canada. I think that Invictus is great for acknowledging that. It's the behind-the-scenes stuff that I think can be my contribution now. That kind of service to me, I'm learning, means just as much as putting the uniform on every day."

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