Wounded warrior McIntosh returns to serve at US Open

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September 7, 2015 11:57 AM

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By Ashley Marshall, USTAFoundation.com

Ryan McIntosh tries to live his everyday life as though nothing has changed. But to those around him, the army sergeant who lost his right leg while serving his country continues to be an inspiration.

In 2012, less than two years after he stepped on a landmine, McIntosh became the first wounded service member to work as a ball person at the US Open. This year, the 26-year-old father of two returned to Flushing Meadows to work his second tournament.

“I try not to let the injury define me. I’m the same person I was six years ago as I am today,” said McIntosh. “I missed the experience of [being a ball person]. When it was over, I missed it because I enjoyed it so much. I missed the people and being on the court. It was really enjoyable.”

The USTA Foundation, the national charitable arm of the USTA, is entering its fourth year providing opportunities for wounded military service members to work at the final Grand Slam tournament of the year. The Foundation’s mission is to change lives through a combination of tennis and education, and it supports tennis camps and clinics nationwide for military service members, veterans and their families.

The foundation’s military outreach efforts have impacted 200,000 service members, veterans and their families through Wounded Warrior tennis trainings, Warrior and Family Tennis Days and events at the Emirates Airline US Open Series and US Open. Among those veterans, McIntosh continues to impress his peers.

“He’s inspirational to every single kid from 14 years old all the way to our 69-year-old ball persons,” manager Tina Taps said. “He’s a great athlete. The military members are very focused and they’re committed and they work very hard. Ryan has a great personality and he fit in very well with our ball person crews and teams. Generationally, he made friends with all ages and it was great having him and we’re excited to have him back.”

McIntosh’s life changed less than three weeks before Christmas in 2010, when he was serving in his first combat tour of Afghanistan.

“On Dec. 8, 2010, we were on a regular routine mission and we were on our way back from our patrol,” McIntosh recalled. “About 100 meters away from our home base, we crossed a dual canal and I stepped on a pressure point landmine which was daisy-chained to a jug of home-made explosives. The jug didn’t go off, just the landmine, but I lost my right leg below the knee in Kandahar when they did my amputation.”

McIntosh got his first prosthetic blade six weeks after the injury. He was walking two weeks later and running shortly after that. In 2012, McIntosh took part in the Warrior Games, an Olympic-style set of events organized by the United States Olympic Committee for injured, wounded and ill service members from the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corp. He ran the 100 and 200 meters and the 4x100 meter relay. He also threw the discus and played seated volleyball and wheelchair basketball. During the games, a friend invited him to a USTA-hosted tennis clinic. He fell in love with the sport and later got invited to a US Open ball person tryout in New York City.

“Everything was the same and I didn’t get any special treatment,” McIntosh said of the tryout. “They asked me if I can throw a tennis ball and I said, ‘Well I’ve thrown grenades before, does that count?’”

The rest, McIntosh says, is history.

In 2013, McIntosh got into the Army World Class Athlete Program and he is now part of the Soldier Athlete Initiative, a program that uses athletic training to improve military readiness. The initiative combines physical training, injury prevention and nutritional education and aims to keep soldiers in better physical condition. As a soldier athlete, McIntosh runs the 100 meters, throws the javelin and competes in the long jump.

Since first working at the US Open three years ago, McIntosh has taken part in several clinics the USTA Foundation has hosted in San Antonio and Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Foundation, in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and its military partners, developed the Warrior Tennis Curriculum and continues to help active military service members, veterans and their families learn tennis as a way to rehabilitate and reintegrate themselves into communities after deployment.

“It’s a great organization for getting service members back on their feet or into a chair to play tennis,” said McIntosh, who is expected to work in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Military Appreciation Night. “It gives them a light at the end of the tunnel so they can see what they need to do to get to the next stage, so it helps them set goals and be around people with like-minded personalities.

“I wouldn’t call myself an inspiration. I’m just a normal guy going about life. I’m not out there to be paraded around, I just want to be another regular person. But if people gain inspiration from me, that’s awesome. I try to live my life as if nothing has changed, that nothing’s different. When I look at somebody, I think if they can do it, I can do it. That’s how I take on life. I just need to find ways to adapt.”

 


   
 

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