If it isn’t the most military answer out there, it’s close.
It’s the eve of a national championship event. It’s the best from his branch against rivals from every other. It’s winner take all. So, in what events will U.S. Navy Chaplain Lt. Andrew Hoyle compete?
Whatever ones Team Navy tells him to once he gets there.
“I don’t know yet,” said Hoyle, 37, a Fort Mill native competing in the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago. “I’ll find out what I’m doing soon. My goal is to cross the finish line.”
The Warrior Games run through July 8. More than 250 seriously wounded, ill and injured service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations Command will compete in mostly individual events, along with wheelchair team sports. Hoyle is there for cycling, swimming and track.
“I’ve always been a little bit of a runner, always played in the pool a little bit,” he said. “This will be a step up. This will be a little bit more intensive.”
Hoyle made the Navy team after trials at a base in Oxnard, Calif. in February. The Navy team includes service members and veterans with upper and lower body injuries, spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries, visual impairment, serious illness and post-traumatic stress. Vice Adm. Mary Jackson, commander of the Navy Installations Command, said the Navy athletes competing are “an inspiration for us all.”
“Their involvement in the Games brings home the importance of the Navy’s adaptive sports program, which has a significant impact on a wounded warrior's recovery efforts,” Jackson said.
At first, Hoyle wasn’t sure he could compete. He assumed special events like the Warrior Games were for people suffering major physical injuries in service. Hoyle’s situation is a little different.
“I’m back to active duty now,” he said. “It’s been an adventure.”
After years working as an assistant pastor in churches, Hoyle and his family — he and wife Amanda have children age 13, 11 and 10 — decided he would join the Navy as a chaplain. Four years ago he got his assignment. He is stationed in Norfolk, Va.
Then, last summer, Hoyle was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. Chemotherapy followed. He went to Indiana University for surgery, where doctors removed a 14-ounce tumor from his abdomen. In March, doctors told him he was in remission. Training camp for the games began in May.
For someone who joined the Navy to help navigate others through difficult times, the past year was a table turner for Hoyle. But he believes it also made him a better, more understanding chaplain.
“God put me in a place where I could not be the one ministering, where I was the one who needed to be ministered to, and it was hard at first,” he said.
The ordeal also shapes how he looks at the upcoming Warrior Games. Hoyle still wants to represent the Navy well. He still wouldn’t be happy finishing behind an Army or Marine competitor.
“But you keep in mind all of us are here because we faced some challenges along the way at some point,” he said.
Hoyle arrived in Chicago last Wednesday. He will take what comes, giving himself and his team everything he has in whatever it is he’s called to do. It’s how he got into the Navy in the first place. It’s what he learned there since. It’s what he’ll expect from so many athletes there just like him.
“To me,” Hoyle said, “being part of Warrior Games means that a person can adapt and overcome. Challenges and limitations do not mean that a person is out of the fight.”
Want to know more?
For more on the Warrior Games, visit dodwarriorgames.com.