Against all odds: Sgt. Nowell Perseveres

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dieondiere Jefferies
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Tenacity and perseverance are qualities in the indomitable human spirit. Master Sgt. Corey Nowell, 436th Aerial Port Squadron traffic management flight superintendent, personifies this idea through his ability to bounce back after tragedy strikes. 


In 2022, Nowell was sitting in his car when he was struck by a drunk driver going 65 mph. The impact caused nerve and fiber breakage in Nowell’s brain, along with constant hip, back and neck pain, accompanied by leg numbness. This incident would begin Nowell’s long recovery process, leading him to try out for the Department of Defense Warrior Games.


Nowell’s recovery consisted of four to five appointments a day, comprised of occupational therapy, physical therapy, aqua therapy, and 32 injections every three to four months to tame his migraines. 


“[ while] I was doing rehab at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, my doctor said, ‘You’re such an athletic guy, your new [goal will] be to go compete at the Warrior Games,” exclaimed Nowell. 


The Department of Defense Warrior Games is an annual multi-adaptive sports competition for military members with physical or invisible wounds. Before competing in the games, a wounded warrior must qualify by participating in adaptive sports activities supported by the DOD Office of Warrior Care Policy Military Adaptive Sports Program.


“I attended my first care event in Washington, D.C. back in November of last year,” said Nowell. “There are 13 different sports, I was able to try all of them.” 


Throughout Nowell’s first competition, he excelled in powerlifting, sprinting, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, and cycling. This performance gave Nowell the chance to compete for a spot on the DOD Warrior Games Team at the 2024 U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps trials. 


Nowell would then go on a temporary duty travel to Nellis Air Force Base to compete in trials. Only 40 participants were selected from the 220 participants. 


“Unfortunately, I did not make the team, but I was still able to medal,” said Nowell. “I'm 38. I’ll be 39 years old soon. I was out there running against [DOD members] that were literally 20 years younger than me.” 


After the competition, Nowell received a text from his cycling coach explaining that he is a role model for what they want wounded warriors to become. Nowell’s coach also commended him on his effort in training and the continuous positive reinforcement he brings to his teammates.


“Every chance I get, I'm uplifting the next person,” said Nowell. “When I wasn’t powerlifting, I was at the entrance [supporting] my team.”


Despite not making the team, Nowell continues to train and eagerly awaits his shot at next year’s DOD Warrior Games. 


“My time will come next year. I train five days a week, and I’ve been in the gym grinding,” Nowell exclaimed proudly. “A limitation is only a limitation if you allow it to stop you.”