Wounded warrior from Oconomowoc competes in Invictus Games: “It’s given me purpose again”

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OCONOMOWOC, Wisconsin/ORLANDO, Florida -- The word "invictus" means "unconquered," and is the perfect word to describe AJ Mohammed of Oconomowoc. He is an inspiring athlete, and also, an American hero.

"Training has been a blessing and a curse," Mohammed said.

Whether it's riding a bike, running on a track or lifting weights, Mohammed is always working towards a new goal.

AJ Mohammed

AJ Mohammed

"It hurts, but it feels good. With the training, I believe it's a necessary evil to get me better, stronger. The older I get, I need to actually do a lot more to keep up," Mohammed said.

Mohammed has been more than keeping up. He has been leading the way.

AJ Mohammed

AJ Mohammed

"This past six months, I've been training a little harder, getting more excited and will hopefully do my country proud," Mohammed said.

After success at the Warrior Games in Quantico, Virginia, Mohammed advanced as a member of Team USA to the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

PHOTO GALLERY

"Representing the USA in sports that I've never really participated in like this, until Navy Safe Harbor Wounded Warrior, offered me a chance to leave the house and travel and train and give me purpose again," Mohammed said.

To make the elite team, one has to be an exceptional athlete, but also a wounded, ill or injured service member -- active or veteran.

"I use my injuries as a reminder of how much trauma I was going through and went through as basically a standard to show that my strength of will is great," Mohammed said.

More than a decade ago, while serving in the United States Army, Mohammed was severely wounded.

"I was injured in May 2004. Injuries were sustained while on patrol in the Middle East. I have significant vision loss, hearing loss, facial paralysis. I had a spinal cord injury. I had to overcome TBI, traumatic brain injury and suffering from PTSD. I was very withdrawn. A lot of anxiety problems. I didn't like going out too much. And just looking to find a purpose or a beacon of hope in my life coming back from the war," Mohammed said.

"Just knowing where he came from and just how bleak the outlook was in the hospital right after he got hurt and seeing that he's running, he's competing in sports even though he can only see with one eye. It's amazing," Grace Mohammed, AJ Mohammed's wife said.

"I was blessed to have found archery, cycling and track to be my most, you know, enjoyed activities that I can try to do at home, especially if the weather's right. And to keep carrying on and give me something to look forward to every day," AJ Mohammed said.

In 2015, his life would change in a couple of big ways. He began competing and got married to Grace, who has been by his side at each of his competitions.

"This has been the biggest thing for helping his healing that I think he could have done. His self confidence has grown so much. He's not afraid to get out and go to church, go hunting, meet new people. This has just been so good for him," Grace Mohammed said.

"It put a new drive and life in me. It's given me hope. It's really gotten me out of the house. I'm starting to travel more. And for me, through my therapies, I believe it's a life-saver," Mohammed said.

AJ Mohammed

AJ Mohammed

Mohammed's accomplishments, along with his attitude have made him an inspiration to his mentor, Renaldo Jenks, a PS1 in the Navy.

"He's exactly that, an inspiration. He pushes me to be a better sailor and to be a better leader to the people that I lead in my command. There's so many things I've learned from him over this year. You know, sometimes I go to work and I'm stressed out. And he's that person that I call on and he'll sit there and listen to me. And that helps me," Jenks said.

The competitions do something else for Mohammed, as he gets to enjoy the camaraderie of his fellow sailors and soldiers.

"Many of these people have gone through years of suffering. I've gone through my years of healing, getting better, rehabbing. And it's an instant friendship and acknowledgment knowing that we share the same blood in the same mud and we are growing together in competition, sport and training," Mohammed said.

And they are coming together again, proudly wearing the letters they bled for.

"For me, it's humbling and honoring. Put on the uniform before I was injured, it was definitely a great symbol of my hard work, a representation of the country I know and love. And to now be retired and be able to still represent my country through good ambassador sports, it's -- words can't describe how great that'll make me feel," Mohammed said.

Invictus Games

Invictus Games

The Invictus Games were started by Prince Harry after he saw the Warrior Games in 2013.

The games this year, the second ever, were held in Orlando from May 8th through May 12th.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Invictus Games.