By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
Tennis is the new challenge being met by Angelo Anderson, who raced across the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on June 20, trying to earn a job at the 2013 US Open Ballperson Tryouts.
"It’s a sport that has intrigued me for a long time because there’s such an active nature to it, which meshes with my personality," said the 24-year-old first-time participant, pleased with his ability to start and stop around the net and his ability to receive throws, despite his lack of experience on the court.
Anderson, who flew in from North Carolina for the event, is hopeful that his audition went well and that he’ll receive a callback in July, when the field of nearly 500 applicants from the initial tryout is whittled down to 150 finalists.
"You’re never ready enough. Wherever that ball goes, being able to anticipate that it will be in the right place and be there, it’s difficult but also exciting."
Three years ago, lifted by medevac from a firefight halfway around the world, Anderson couldn’t walk. Today, whether it’s enjoying tennis activity, swimming or participating in wheelchair basketball or track meets, he’s a Wounded Warrior who has found all remedies in competition. With this in mind, Anderson’s presence is proof of victory, much like friend and fellow armed forces veteran Ryan McIntosh’s inspirational tour of duty as a ballperson at the 2012 US Open.
"Ryan inspired me in the awesome job that he did last year," said Anderson of McIntosh, a single-leg amputee.
The two met at last month’s Warrior Games in Colorado, the annual Olympic-style competition for wounded, ill and injured service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations, as well as the British Armed Forces and veterans. A four-time Warrior Games medalist, Anderson left his encounter with McIntosh with dreams about Arthur Ashe Stadium and New York City.
"He expressed to me in our conversations that being a ballperson is not only a lot of fun, but it’s a great opportunity to let people see Wounded Warriors as a family in a position where they are active and making a difference," added Anderson. "It’s a story that we’re a part of that can touch a lot of people’s hearts."
In 2010, the Navy Corpsman volunteered for a combat assignment with a rifle company of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Anderson was accompanying U.S. Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers on foot patrols throughout the Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan on July 2, when enemy AK-47 bullets tore through both his right arm and thigh, shattering his femur and landing him in an orthopedics ward back in the United States. In the weeks that followed, Anderson received the Purple Heart on behalf of President Barack Obama for his injuries in the line of duty, as well as the Fleet Marine Force Warfare Insignia, a military badge issued to naval personnel trained and qualified to perform duties in support of the U.S. Marine Corps.
With his leg reconstructed with a titanium rod, Anderson’s rehabilitation has been a lasting struggle – it was almost a year after his surgery before he could walk unassisted. In the interim, he learned the nuances of operating a wheelchair to the point of proficiency.
"I learned that a big portion of my healing came after the medicine with my family and my co-workers," said Anderson. "Through adaptive sports and athletics, there were so many opportunities to physically improve before I even was ready to walk again. Mentally, I was creating these goals and getting into a great spirit. I had no time to let negative thoughts sink in.
"I know where I used to be in high school before enlisting and where I am now. It’s almost like two totally different individuals. I’m more mature, and the body follows the mind – it’s always being prepared within your mind. That’s why recovery is more mental than physical."
Anderson is currently stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., and is part of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC). Once he retires from active ballperson duty and his naval service, he would like to attend medical school.
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