Elizabeth Marks is the picture of courage, resiliency, and determination.
The Arizona native joined the U.S. Army in 2008 at the age of 17 and was deployed to Iraq two years later. While on the battlefield as a combat medic, she suffered hip injuries that required three operations to reset. Unfortunately, she was left severely disabled.
Marks started swimming to help her recovery and was eventually selected to the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program, which gives injured soldiers the opportunity to train full-time in competitive sports.
“I have an entire family behind me,” Marks said in an interview with GoodSport. “I have the U.S Army and the veteran community supporting me and pushing me. Even though it’s a sport where I’m just in a lane, they are all with me.”
They were with her in spirit when Marks contracted a severe respiratory infection during the 2014 Invictus Games, which forced doctors to place her in a medically induced coma for a month. Her vision was permanently affected and doctors eventually had to amputate her lower left leg.
Marks showed her grit and resilience not only in bouncing back from the infection but in qualifying for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. She won a gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke, setting a Paralympic world record in the process.
“When I exited the pool, I didn’t know I’d even won, let alone set a world record,” Marks told the Fort Carson Mountaineer. “I can’t really see anything when I’m swimming so my coach ended up telling me several minutes after I got out of the pool.”
Later that year, Marks won the Pat Tillman award for service, which was presented to her at the ESPY’s and fully supported by the Tillman family.
“As a combat medic and now world-class para swimmer, Sgt. Marks embodies the same strong sense of duty that Pat did – challenging herself, fellow soldiers and her teammates, physically and mentally, to push limits and achieve their best in spite of injury or other setbacks,” said Pat’s late wife, in a statement.”
Marks has overcome so much in her young life and fulfilled her dreams. She encourages others to follow the path she’s created.
“Coming into sports, whether you’re young or old, it’s never too late or too soon. It’s a beautiful experience.”
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Mark’s Instagram