Combat-wounded Ranger find comfort in Fisher House, purpose in athletics

Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Quarles stayed at Fisher Houses twice, first as part of sports rehabilitation at Fort Cavazos, Texas and later in Charleston, South Carolina while having most of his stomach removed.

“Fisher House, opening the door for me on the adaptive sports side to be able to do things,” he said, “and then on the recovery for me and my family, was just an amazing experience. And the welcomeness that two different locations for two different things was amazing. But everything that they offered, just with open arms, no questions asked, allowed us to stay there. It was absolutely amazing.”

The tall, athletic veteran served across the world in both the American and Australian militaries as a Ranger and commando. But he suffered two terrible injuries just weeks apart.

“I was injured in 2012 from a gunshot wound to the head, and two weeks later blown up by a 5,000-pound [vehicle-borne improvised explosive device],” he said. “Fought my injuries for a couple of years and then the injuries were too much and started going into surgeries.”

Quarles medically retired, but he struggled for purpose as he dealt with his injuries. At the Warrior Transition Brigade, an occupational therapist pushed him toward cycling and adaptive sports.

“I was in that dark place like, ‘No, I'm going to get better. I'm going to go back and fight,’” he said. “And then when they told me that I couldn't do those things, I went down that dark spiral because that's all I had known for so many years was military: focus on the soldiers, focus on the mission, and then, all of a sudden, all that's reversed.”

“The mission was to focus on myself, and I didn’t know how to do that. The soldier recovery unit literally taught that to me and had to program my brain to push all that other stuff and start focusing on myself. Adaptive sports were a big helper to that.”

The Fisher House in Fort Cavazos, Texas helped him get started in national competitions as it hosted him for the Army trials there as part of his rehabilitation. He went on to represent the Army at Warrior Games three times and then Team U.S. in the Invictus Games twice.

But like most veterans, his recovery wasn’t linear. In 2018, he went to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System.

“In 2018 I had to have a major surgery in Charleston, South Carolina. And so I went to Fisher House with my nephew because he wasn't working at the time. So he was able to come down with me. We stayed at Fisher House. I had the surgery, stayed in the hospital for a few days. I had to have three quarters of my stomach removed and then they allowed him to stay there.”

The nephew was able to support Greg as he initially recovered from the surgery and got home.

“Knowing that he didn't have to pay out of pocket, I didn't have to pay out of pocket for him to be in a hotel and knowing that it was a secure area,” he said. “It allowed me to be able to relax more for the surgery and that outcome was good and that he was able to just come straight because the Fisher House is literally right next door. He didn't have to get lost trying to navigate through a big city and come over and see me every day while I was in the hospital.”

“I mean, it was just heartwarming,” he said. “And then from there I really dug in and read everything about Fisher House and where they've begun and what they have done and what they continue to do. It’s just, I'm without words on it. Because the heart and the mental aspect and the giving that Fisher has for any and everybody is amazing.”