RIDGELEY - Melinda (Smith) Cousins participated last week in the Department of Defense's Warrior Games, held this year in Tampa, Florida.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
RIDGELEY - Melinda (Smith) Cousins participated last week in the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games, held this year in Tampa, Florida.
For Cousins, a member of the Air Force and Wounded Warrior Program participant, the journey to this year’s Warrior Games began back in 2014 with news she received while on deployment.
“In August of 2014, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis while I was deployed. I was immediately notified by my recovery care coordinator that I could become part of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program and did so in 2015,” Cousins explains.
According to their website, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program “works together with the Air Force Medical Service to provide concentrated non-medical care and support for combat wounded, ill and injured Airmen (and their families) as they recover and transition back to duty or into civilian life.”  
Currently, more than 8,400 Wounded Warriors, their families and/or caregivers are involved in the program as the numbers continue to grow.
Upon receiving news of the diagnosis, rather than wallow in self-pity, Cousins did what any good Airman would do - made the decision to fight.  
“I may have MS, but it doesn’t have me,” Cousins proudly states.
Participation in the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Program opened the door for Cousins to participate in the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games.  According to the Department of Defense, the Warrior Games, held annually, “were created in 2010 to introduce sick and wounded service members to the challenges of team sports and Olympic-style competition.”
The competitions themselves are known as “adaptive sports,” and include track and field, powerlifting, cycling, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. The adaptive part of adaptive sports means that events are adapted to accommodate the physical needs of the contestants. Some require special equipment, with wheelchair basketball being the most widely recognized. In the shooting competitions, participants use Olympic-grade pellet guns.
At this year’s Warrior Games, Cousins competed in seated discus, seated shotput, archery, air rifle and air pistol.
To say her participation was successful is an understatement, giving herself, her family, Mineral County and the United States Air Force much to be proud of.
According to Cousins, “I took Gold in discus and broke the Warrior Games record, Silver in shotput, came in 15th place out of 47 in archery, eighth place in rifle and sixth place in pistol.”
Her performance at the national-event Warrior Games follows up on successful performances at the trial events that qualified her for the national games in the first place.  
“I was selected for the Warrior Games by competing in the Air Force trials which were held at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas in February. About 60 athletes compete and only 40 get selected, along with 10 alternates,” Cousins explained.
Cousins is thrilled with all the support she’s received, not just for participating in the Warrior Games, but in her journey overall through the Wounded Warrior Project. According to Cousins, “It’s been a true honor to have the support I am getting from my community and friends. It has been amazing.”
Cousins has a large, supportive family, including three daughters, two stepdaughters, one stepson, and two step granddaughters. She recently married Johnnie Cousins at this year’s Air Force Trials in Las Vegas with the Air Force Chaplain officiating.     
“I have dedicated these games to my mom; I lost her this past March and she meant the world to me. I want to thank my Air Force Wounded Warrior family, my family and friends, the Air Force Association, Under Armour, Dwayne “Rock” Johnson, Fisher House, and so many more for their undivided support and making these games an experience of a lifetime,” Cousins stated.
Melinda Cousins made herself, her family, friends and community proud when she enlisted in the Air Force. Cousins serves her country proudly and despite being faced with the challenge of Multiple Sclerosis and fights valiantly every day with the mentality, as she says, that “I may have MS, but it doesn’t have me.”
Already a hero for defending her country and for fighting the challenges of MS head-on on a daily basis, Cousins has taken it to the next level by not only participating in, but actually winning and placing in events at the national Warrior Games.
 Melinda Cousins left the Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida, a winner. Of course, we knew she was a winner before she even got there.