North Texan Who Served in Iraq Will Represent USA in Tokyo Paralympic Games

Marine veteran Ray Hennagir was wounded in combat, now he's an elite wheelchair rugby Paralympian

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Ray Hennagir of Arlington never imagined he'd be an elite athlete, but adversity made him stronger.

Hennagir, a Marine veteran, was seriously wounded in Fallujah, Iraq when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). He lost both legs and part of his left hand.

"My biggest fear was making it back alive," Hennagir said. While going through rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center, a therapist urged him to try wheelchair basketball.

"And after about two months of her begging me every week to come try it, I was like, 'Look, if it will get you to shut up, I'll come try basketball,'" Hennagir said, laughing.

Hennagir excelled at wheelchair basketball over the next 12-years. So much so, he was recognized by the head coach for a sport he'd never played; wheelchair rugby.

"I was approached by Team USA's head coach and asked to try out," Hennagir said. "So when team USA comes knocking on your door, you don't say no!"

The Semper Fi and America's Fund has been helping Hennagir offset expenses, train, and buy equipment to get him ready for this moment.

"They've been helping me out ever since I first got wounded," Hennagir said. "Nice to have somebody to call upon in a time of need."

Hennagir is a 'high pointer', the highest classification in wheelchair rugby.

"I never played rugby. Actually, I never understood it until I started playing it in a wheelchair," Hennagir admitted. "There's no body-on-body contact allowed, but chair-on-chair contact is not only allowed, it's actually encouraged."

Team USA is a medal contender for wheelchair rugby in the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

"It's not an easy task," Hennagir said. "But it's definitely a fun one!"

Team USA plays its first wheelchair rugby match in the Paralympics on August 24.

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