Sgt Devin Kimball USMC Ret, traumatic brain injury. Cpl Gabriel Beltres USMC Ret, paralyzed left arm. Cpl Ray Hennagir USMC Ret, triple amputee.
These heroic veterans are all medically retired Marines who continue to bravely tackle every challenge in front of them, including obstacle course races, in hopes of inspiring all those around them. “When people look at us they judge our injuries and thank us for our service, but our duty isn’t up yet,” says Kimball. “This team proves we are still in the fight and we can still exceed people’s expectations and motivate our nation.”
Kimball, Beltres, Hennagir, and over 1,000 other service members are a part of Team Semper Fi Fund, an organization dedicated to supporting wounded warriors who have “refused to let their challenges prevent them from competing in athletic events, and whose drive and determination [is] inspirational to us all.”
Sgt Devin Kimball served the United States Marine Corps for six years and deployed to Afghanistan twice. In 2010, he was injured by an IED blast. He now suffers from traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, and a memory and writing cognitive disorder. But these physical limitations don’t hold him back from athletic pursuits or his involvement in Team Semper Fi Fund.
The charitable organization lends a helping hand to wounded veterans, and assists with funding, resources, and equipment to help these brave soldiers recover from their injuries and “embrace the fighting, athletic spirit on their road to recovery.”
According to Kimball, “they truly are semper fidelis meaning always faithful.”
Kimball and his team train for and participate in obstacle course races together. It’s a way for them to stay in touch and enjoy the camaraderie that comes from being Marine Corps brothers.
Team Semper Fi Fund recently participated in Savage Race Florida Fall, and even though it took them four hours to finish the event they loved every moment of it. Their favorite part? The obstacles that require teamwork to successfully complete, like Colossus.
Cpl Ray Hennagir, a triple amputee who competes in a wheelchair and has only the use of a thumb on one of his hands, is just as determined as everyone else to conquer Savage Race. He climbed the side-ladder to get to the top of Colossus before going down the waterslide hand-in-hand with his teammates. And he conquered Nutt Smasher, our balance beam obstacle, by walking across on his hands.
Hennagir wheeled his way through all seven miles of the course, at times with the help of other team members, including: Sean Hennagir (his brother and medical caregiver), Zach Blair (roomate to Hennagir), and Mike Cutliff (a long-time friend of Kimball). Also with them was Gunnery Sergeant Bryce Keene, who has been involved with Team Semper Fi Fund longer than anyone else in their OCR group.
As other race participants passed them on the course, many stopped to give them handshakes or to thank them for their service to our country. When the group reached the top of Davy Jones’ Locker, the crowd began clapping and cheering. Kimball says they felt like celebrities.
When they reached Lumberjack Lane, Kimball decided to carry 100+ pound Hennagir over his shoulders instead of a log or two. Despite the challenges and heardbreak of their injuries, these veterans are showing all of us what it means to gather the strength to move on and continue making a difference with their lives.
“We kept hearing ‘NO EXCUSES’ from people that passed us on the course,” remembers Kimball. “They told us if we could do it, they could do it, too. And when we came to obstacles that we could easily walk through, we did it Ray’s way instead, and crawled through them.”
He is a part of this team and does races to share the message to the community and his fellow veterans that they may be wounded, ill, or injured but they are not out of the fight.
His favorite part of obstacle course racing is finding different ways to adapt to the obstacles. He says, “Marines are known for their ability to adapt so I enjoy being part of that… If there is some kind of limitation that you can think of then there is also a solution. There’s no problem that can’t be solved through persistence and will. You are going to have to tell yourself you want it and get it done.”
Beltres’ message to anyone who may have a limitation and needs the support of a team to push past it: Join us.
And Kimball’s advice for anyone facing their own challenges in life? “Never give up on any obstacle in life, no matter what the world throws at you. Just because you’ve fallen doesn’t mean you’re out of the fight. It all starts by asking for help. Find others that have the same dream and work as a team, and you can accomplish anything!”
On behalf of all of us at Savage Race, THANK YOU to all of the veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. We are so appreciative of your service and your sacrifices that have given us the freedoms we hold sacred as Americans.