Local veteran turns Invictus Games champion

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) When he went looking for a second career, Shay Hampton knew there was only one place that was right.

"I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, and the Air Force just seemed like the best fit," he said.

It was that decision that sent Hampton on a more than two-decade military career. He served in three conflicts until a traumatic brain injury changed his future.

"Came back a little busted up, but that set me on a different path," he said.

That path was with adaptive sports.

"It’s been, it’s been kind of a lifesaver for him, and me, and for us as a family, and even just a marriage," his wife Renee said.

But Hampton will be the first to say adaptive sports were not going to be his new normal. When the High Fives Foundation and its 'Military to the Mountains' program came knocking, he first said no.

"I didn’t think it was for me I decide i’m not gonna do this I’m not in that category."

But stepping outside his comfort zone proved to be one of the best decisions Hampton ever made.

"One thing with the High Fives Foundation is that they didn’t expect anything from me to them," he said "Everything they expected from me was for myself."

That expectation turned into one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. Hampton had a goal of competing in the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded or sick military personnel.

"I had a flag I carried all around the world with me, and I said to myself I could figure out how to get to the Invictus Games. I said I’m gonna take that flag and write everybody’s name on it that has helped me along the way and had a hand in me getting there," Hampton said.

Not only did he get there; he came back a champion. With his family watching and cheering him on, Hampton won silver and gold in swimming.

"I was a nut," Renee said "The kids were right next to me and as soon as it happened, I mean, I was just screaming and cheering, and then I heard Hannah say daddy got gold! Just the coolest thing. It was a sense of accomplishment for us as a family, and me as a wife caregiver to him. It’s like he did it this is what you came here for and he accomplished that."

That moment of victory and that feeling of accomplishment would not have been possible without the foundation that pushed him out of his comfort zone.

"Foundations like High Five, without their help there’s no way it would be possible."

With one goal down, Hampton is ready for his next adventure, whatever it may be. But whatever comes next, he and his wife hope they can inspire others to take a risk.

"Just really step outside your comfort zone, accept the help, and grow and move forward and enjoy in life again," Renee said. "It can be done."

The High Fives Foundation is a 2018 KOLOCares Pillar Partner.