Posted on November 21, 2016
When Anthony McDaniel left college as a freshman to join the Marines in 2007, he did so for a number of reasons: to better his future, to travel and to be open to new experiences.
He certainly got to travel: Anthony’s service brought him to Hawaii, Singapore, Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai, Australia – and Afghanistan, where he was injured on August 31, 2010, just four months into his second deployment. Anthony was on a security patrol when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. He woke up four days later in a hospital in Germany having lost both legs and his left hand.
“I might have a left wrist amputation and a bilateral amputation,” Anthony told the website Unstoppable Heroes, “but it’s still not going to stop me from doing what I want to do. Just because you got injured, your life doesn’t have to stop. You may not be able to do the exact things you used to, but you can do similar things, and have a lot of fun doing it. As long as you don’t want to stop yourself, you can do whatever you want to do.”
Growing up in Pascagoula, Mississippi, Anthony played every sport he could; mostly basketball, but also football, baseball and track. So as he was recovering from his injuries in late 2010 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, he was naturally drawn to wheelchair basketball.
“I went to one of the practices with a friend I used to do rehab sessions with,” Anthony says. “I started trying to get a feel for it. The first time I played, it was terrible – but it was still fun.”
Anthony played for a week or two in Bethesda before he was transferred to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego in early 2011. It was in San Diego that playing basketball again really took hold in his life.
“I started playing, practicing at the gym there,” he recalls. “Civilians came out and started teaching the game. Over time, every practice game got better and better and more competitive. From there, we started our own mostly-military team in 2012. Everyone learned from each other.”
“We got bumped up to the championship division quickly,” Anthony notes, “and we were playing with top Paralympic guys. We had great teamwork – everyone worked so well together, we were destined for success. As a young team, we completed a lot of objectives we set out to accomplish.”
Then came rugby.
“I was on a plane about three or four years ago when an assistant coach came up to me and asked me to come out to a practice and see if I liked it,” Anthony says. “Nothing came of it then, but last year that same coach came out to one of my basketball practices and recruited me. I decided to give it a try, and that’s how I learned how to play rugby.”
Anthony quickly took to the sport and before long had a tryout for Team USA. He made the training team for the 2016 Paralympic Games in September in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During this time he was also playing basketball as well as competing in the Invictus Games, where he brought his athletic skills to rowing, track and basketball.
“I’m a competitive person,” says Anthony. “I like challenges. And now that I’m doing adaptive sports, it’s a complete challenge – I had to completely learn basketball all over again, from using the chair to putting myself in certain spots and knowing what I’m doing. But once I got the basics down, I can move on to the competition.”
“I like to set goals for myself,” he continued, “to put myself in a position where I can perform well and my team can perform well. I put 100% of my energy into this — it combines the mental, the physical, everything is all blended together. A lot of people wouldn’t expect me to play the way I can play – with no legs and one hand – but it’s normal to me, because I know what I need to do.”
Anthony has been involved with Team Semper Fi for some time, competing in marathons and helping with basketball camp. His relationship with the Semper Fi Fund stretches back to his recovery days in Bethesda: The Fund helped family members travel to Maryland to be at his bedside during recovery. One of those visits marked the first time he saw his own son, who was born the day before he deployed.
Today, Anthony lives in Florida with his four kids – three girls and one boy. He plays basketball, and is working on mentoring a new team. The Fund helped him set up his new life in the Sunshine State, assisting him with getting his truck (which is modified for adaptive transport) and helping him make the move.
“The people at Team Semper Fi and the Semper Fi Fund, they get it in a way most people don’t,” Anthony says. “They helped me in so many ways that all I had to do was take care of myself. That’s huge, to be able to focus on recovery and not have to worry about so many other things.”