Face of Defense: Nurse Beats Cancer, Readies for Warrior Games
WASHINGTON, June 19, 2015 – Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, a fierce competitor, mother and cancer survivor, will be competing in all of the women’s wheelchair track events and all of the women’s classified swimming events at this year’s DoD Warrior Games held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, today through June 28.
Elmlinger, a disabled nurse, said there weren’t any female wheelchair track racers at last year’s Warrior Games, so she raced against the men and earned silver medals in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 1,500 meter races. She also earned gold medals in the women’s classified 50-meter freestyle, 50-meter backstroke and 100-freestyle.
“I just wanted to compete; I didn’t care about the medals. It went much deeper than that. It was about representing all of the support and help of the people who got me to that point,” Elmlinger said. “These competitions are more about the celebrations of everyone at their own point in life and celebrating the goals and the gains that you’ve made to get to that point.”
At the Invictus Games in London, Kelly earned gold medals in the 100-meter and 400-meter women’s wheelchair races. She also earned a gold medal in the women’s shot put and a silver medal in discus. For cycling, she earned a gold medal for the time trial and a silver medal for the road race. For swimming, she earned a silver medal for the 50-meter backstroke and took fourth place in the 50-meter free stroke and 100-meter free stroke.
Elmlinger’s parents said they are very excited to attend the Invictus Games, but that they were not surprised by their daughter’s accomplishments at both the Invictus and Warrior Games.
“When I first saw her competing, it took my breath away because I had seen her compete many times, but never in that capacity. But I’m very proud of her and all of the wounded warriors. It’s wonderful that they all get out there and compete,” Berti Elmlinger said of her daughter’s competitive spirit.
Growing up in Attica, Ohio, Elmlinger and her three siblings all went to state competitions for track and field and cross-country and played basketball in high school. She said she joined the Army on Veterans Day, her favorite holiday, after talking to her cousins who had served and seeing footage on Operation Desert Storm.
She said she wanted hands-on experience and became a medic with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She served as a medic during two deployments to Iraq and a deployment to Afghanistan, and then decided to become a nurse so she could work with wounded warriors, at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
“I enjoyed it, and they probably provided me more than I provided them in terms of encouragement and inspiration,” Elmlinger said. “I’ve met a lot of good friends through taking care of them as they were getting ready for their prosthetics. I enjoyed taking care of them.”
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