San Diegans compete at Invictus Games

Posted at 6:49 PM, May 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-09 21:49:38-04

The Invictus Games are underway at Disney World.

It is like the Olympics for service members and vets with disabilities.

During opening ceremonies, a wounded airman made a dramatic entrance. A local service dog, named Kai, ran up and stole the show.

Several competitors are from the San Diego area, and Staff Seargent Rafael Cervantes is one of them

"This nation has some crazy talent, and it just pushes you a little bit harder to just come out here and just work your butt off," Cervantes said.

He is from Oceanside, but he comes from a world where they focused on their brothers and sisters in arms.

"Being able to represent our country here at Invictus is an honor," Cervantes explained. "It's something that I never would have thought I'd be able to do."

Prince Harry started the Invictus Games two years ago. He was with the First Lady and President Bush. Five hundred athletes from 14 countries are competing in sports like wheelchair basketball, power lifting and sitting volleyball.

"To look back five years ago when I first got injured and to see how far I've gone," Cervantes said with a smile.

In 2011, Cervantes drove over an IED in Afghanistan. On top of a traumatic brain injury, the blast broke his pelvis, back, leg and foot. When he came to, he was not worried about himself or his dangling foot.

He yanked his legs out, pulled another Marine from the wreckage, and collapsed. Then, Cervantes grabbed a gun and covered him.

Many would see him as a hometown hero. But, when his injuries benched him from battle, he felt the invisible wounds from war.

Cervantes said this five months later: "Lately I just feel like I'm not here."

When he is playing sports, he is not focused on his feelings.

"Military adaptive sports can do things that regular therapy just can't do by itself," he explained. "When you're out there with your injury you don't focus so much on yourself, but you worry about your brothers and sisters on the field."

It is like he used to think on the battlefield.

The games run through Thursday.