Marine Cpl. Breanna Dill recently helped the Marines win a fourth consecutive Warrior Games title.
Dill graduated from St. Francis High School in 2004 and is a member of the Wounded Warrior Battalion West, stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
She was part of the 2013 All-Marine Warrior Games Team competing in swimming and cycling events in the paralympic-style competition for wounded, ill and injured service members in seven events including wheelchair basketball, archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball and track and field.
The Marines competed against the Army, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command and British Armed Forces in what was reported as the largest warrior games that took place at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10-17, complete with opening and closing ceremonies. Britain’s Prince Harry, who serves in the British Army, took part in the opening ceremonies.
Dill earned three medals in swimming events, including the gold in the 100-meter freestyle and silver in the 50 backstroke and 50 free. She also competed in the 10-kilometer handcrank event, an event that she began training with the help of the SemperFi Fund which bought her the specialized bike.
The new bike is a tool that gives Dill the freedom to get out and about for more than exercise and competition.
“I just learned that I can do a lot of races and walks for cures for non-profit organizations,” said Dill, who received the bike in October.
Dill’s excited about the prospect of taking part in benefit walks since her three-year-old son, Landon, is autistic, she said.
Dill enlisted in the Marines in 2008 as a motor-t operator, transporting tactical vehicles with troops and equipment but was injured before her first tour of duty overseas.
She sustained a brain injury in a motor vehicle accident in October 2010 before an object hit the left side of her head last October, cutting her head open and leaving her unconscious for the next three days.
When Dill awoke, she had no feeling below her knees and learned she had suffered a traumatic brain injury, in addition to swelling of the brain and pressure on her spinal cord. She decided to take part in the Warrior Game trials as a way to combat depression after being confined in a wheelchair since October 2012, Dill said.
“I really missed being able to go to the park with my son,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I could do something with my son.”
Before the injury, Dill didn’t compete in swimming or cycling events. “I never knew you could bike with your hands,” she said.
She started training in January in both disciplines. “The coaches are all such an inspiration to do this with us,” Dill said.
Dill’s husband, John, who is also a Marine, along with her family (Thomas, father and Connie, mother) from Minnesota have really been the motivation for her to train that much harder.
While her son doesn’t quite understand the competition, he still wants to chase down his mother. “He’s been great support for me,” Dill said about Landon. “He doesn’t comprehend the competition side but he wants to get on the bike for rides and he’ll watch me in the pool.
During the trials he wanted to jump in and chase me. He really lifts up my heart.”
Dill’s husband and her brother, Michael Quintana, help with the day-to-day tasks.
Looking back to before the injuries, Dill admits she took her legs for granted. “I certainly look at my legs in a different light,” she said.
That has helped her build the realization of competing for a team, through the Wounded Warrior Project and the Warrior Games, Dill said.
“I take so much pride in representing the Marines and being part of something bigger than myself,” she said.
“No matter what is injured you are still being part of something.”
Dill played soccer and was a member of the cheerleading team at St. Francis, but got her competitive edge from her father Thomas.
“He’s been a huge inspiration for me to be competitive and respectful and it doesn’t matter if you won because you put in the effort,” she said. “I take that to heart when I compete.”
Although Thomas couldn’t make the trip to Colorado because of recent back surgery, Dill’s family shared video clips along with other family members.
While Dill found plenty of success this year, she hopes to be a part of the event in the years to come. “I’m still planning on participating when I become a veteran, too,” she said. “It’s still just growing and we’re hoping to have even more support to recognize [the event].”
Dill and her teammates went through a two-week All-Marine training camp in Colorado before the Warrior Games began. She said the training was tough in the higher elevations. “Training wasn’t too bad for [swimming or biking],” she said. “When I got to Colorado, that kind of kicked my butt. The [cycle] training is very long and very steep hills – steeper than California.”