McDONOUGH — Harlon Matthews, Henry County wheelchair sports coordinator for Henry County Parks and Recreation, has been recruited by the U.S. Air Force to coach three Wounded Warriors wheelchair tennis teams.
The tennis teams recently competed at the Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida. According to a release from the county, Matthews recently went to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, to lend his expertise in wheelchair tennis coaching to help get the athletes ready for the Warrior Games, and two of his teams earned bronze and gold medals at the event.
Teams participating represented the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
For Matthews, the coaching was like coming full circle since his days in school.
“I was in Air Force JRROTC and working on a scholarship, but caught a cold going around school that went to my spinal cord and paralyzed me,” Matthews said in a press release. “Coaching for these games allowed me to ‘serve’ in another way. This was an amazing honor and thrill to be asked by the Air Force to coach their wheelchair tennis teams, and we definitely met expectations.”
Matthews was impressed with the tenacity of the Wounded Warrior athletes, he said.
“The resilience of the warriors is crazy,” he said. “They start competing at 8 in the morning and don’t finish until 4:30, non-stop competition in several different sports. It was incredible.”
Matthews said it was an honor to be asked to coach the Wounded Warriors, and it was an honor in memory of his father, who passed away a few years ago and was an Army veteran and a supporter of the Wounded Warriors organization.
“I hope my dad is looking down on me with pride because the Wounded Warriors organization was near and dear to his heart, and I am proud to have been a small part of this year’s games,” Matthews said.