Sand to Sled

Joseph Woodke, 25, of Franklin, Tn. is a Marine Veteran. "Playing sports and going to school are really all I do now." says Woodke. "I have to keep my mind busy." 

Woodke packs up his gear before heading to the Sled Hockey championships. "Guys that come out of the military after serious times do one of two things." says Woodke. "They either stay in their homes or they get involved in everything they possibly can." Woodke joined the Sled Preds after an honorable discharge and moved to Nashville. "A lot on the team are veterans and I already knew some people on the team." says Woodke.

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Woodke trains for the USA Para-Olympic Power Lifting team with his trainer, Luke Huntzinger at the Franklin Athletic Club in Franklin, Tn. "I've only been training for a year and a half, but I'm still not as big as I should be."

"Training really takes a toll on me, but especially my hands. When I train during the hockey season, my hands and arms really take a beating." says Woodke. When Woodke competes in "able-body" competitions, he has to compete without his legs. "The first time it happened, we weren't aware of the regulations. They made me take my legs off and I couldn't stay on the bench. Bench was the only thing I could compete in." 

"Going from hockey to lifting takes a lot out of me. I seem to get more tired than I used to. I'm not sure if it's working with these legs or I'm just getting old." says Woodke. "Sleep is something that doesn't happen all the time. I get a lot of phantom pain." 

The first prosthetics Woodke got did not allow for much movement. "They're stiff and uncomfortable, but it was all I had." says Woodke. Once he was able enough to walk and be active on them he was allowed brand new legs by the Marines that allowed him to walk and be more comfortable in public. When he is home he spends his time in a wheelchair that he is more comfortable in. "I don't mind living alone. I've grown to like the quiet, but I can't be alone for too long. Even when I'm alone I try to stay busy. I do my homework and try to keep myself occupied." Woodke says as he checks up on the dates for the IPC lifting trials. 

"The only time I use my wheel chair is at the airport or in my house. I'm comfortable using it around my house, but I'm not crazy about it in public." says Woodke as he packs up his teammates truck to head to the airport. 

Joseph finally started walking in July of 2011 after being honorably discharged from the Marines. He walks with X3s made by Ottoblock. The X3's are advanced microprocessor prosthetic legs made from a collaboration between Ottoblock and the U.S. Military.

Woodke and his Sled Pred teammate Ben Maenza, 27, lead off the last practice of the season. Maenza, another Marine veteran and double amputee, helped convince Woodke to join the league. "I grew up biking and playing basketball. I tried them both when I started being more active." Woodke kept getting frustrated when he wasn't able to play the games he loved the way he used to. Trying a sport he never played was the perfect answer. 

Woodke talks to John Curtain, 26, another veteran Marine. "Coming to a team of guys that don't need you to explain what's happened to my legs. I get to insult them and they insult me back there's no one walking on eggshells just because you've got prosthetics." The team is a family for each other. Joseph gives a fist bump to the coaches son who practices with the players (pictured right). "It was hard for my family, but eventually they came to accept it the same way I had. I'm just another Marine without legs who has to do things a little differently, but I'm still the same person I've always been." says Woodke.

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