HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At the 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa, Fla., Hawaii’s Garrett Kuwada excelled in every adaptive sports event he entered.
He had top finishes in cycling, swimming and track and field.
“I competed in 14 different events and I medaled in 13,” he said.
The 48-year-old retired Air Force Master Sergeant captured eight gold medals, four silver and one bronze.
But the games weren’t just an athletic endeavor for the Makakilo resident. Competing was a milestone in his journey back from the severe brain trauma Kuwada suffered while on active duty in 2016.
“After the ruptured brain aneurysm, everything just came to a complete stop,” he said.
He also sustained a spinal injury that affects his ability to walk. For two years Kuwada withdrew into a shell.
"I just went into a deep depression, gained a lot of weight, and didn't have any motivation," he said.
At his wife's urging he tried out and qualified for the Air Force team.
"It gave him purpose and drive and direction again, and it gave him his life back," Joey Kuwada said.
He exercised again and regained his competitive spirit.
Meeting other wounded warriors opened his eyes.
"You see that you're not alone," he said.
Kuwada, 49, credits his family’s support and his Hawaiian heritage for helping him persevere. He traces his lineage to Kekuhaupio, the warrior trainer of King Kamehameha.
The physical and psychological turnaround he gained from participating in the Warrior Games gives him a story he hopes will help others.
"If it provides inspiration to somebody to keep going or to press through the dark times, then that's great!" he said.
The Air Force named Kuwada it's Heart of the Team.
He was among 300 wounded warriors athletes at this year’s games, and he plans to compete again next year.