GAMBRILLS, Md. (AP) — Archery helped William Ruth get back on his feet.
When he started the sport last fall, the 38-year-old Army sergeant first class was still in a wheelchair, recovering from war wounds. Wearing braces, he began standing to shoot this summer.
“I’ve got a purpose again,” said Ruth, who is still recuperating. “It gives me a reason to get up every day, besides work.”
This week, the Fort Meade resident competed in the 2013 Valor Games Midwest in Chicago. He took bronze in archery — his first medal in the sport.
His archery teacher is Larry Hix, a four-time national champion who has been working with wounded warriors once a week since 2011 at Anne Arundel Archers in Gambrills.
“It’s hard to teach wounded warriors because of all kinds different ailments they have,” said Hix, a 20-year Air Force veteran. “I put myself into their place and go with that. I work with what they have.”
Despite more than 50 years behind the bow, the 74-year-old Crownsville resident is still at work on the sport himself, taking aim two hours a day.
“I feel great when something goes in the middle,” Hix said, “but when they don’t go, I have to find out what’s happening with me and the bow.”
Set on 52 wooded acres off Maryland 3, Anne Arundel Archers offers 28 targets for members, as well as five public targets.
To a beginner, the 20-yard target looks far away. The 80-yard target — the farthest — appears to be in another ZIP code. It’s eerily quiet — until a chorus of twangs and thwacks fill the air.
Hix is among a core group of 20 among 280 members who compete regularly. Hix and Sue Weinstein, another four-time national champ, just got back from the Senior Olympics. He finished first and she took home second in their divisions.
The club dates to the 1950s, when it was in Glen Burnie and called B&O Bowmen. It moved 30 years ago.
The average age of members is 58, though they’ve seen a surge of youth interest as a result of “The Hunger Games” books. Memories of Robin Hood and grandpa’s bow and arrow drew in some of the older members, as well as hunting.
Regardless of what piqued their interest, they share in the challenge of the sport and the camaraderie of the club.
“Everybody here seems to help everybody,” said Fred Leonard of Pikesville. “There’s no one here who wouldn’t give you the shirt off his back.”
He’s retired from the military, like Hix and several other members. Their weapons training helps when it comes to aiming, but it still takes plenty of discipline and practice to shoot a bow and arrow.
Ruth attributes his recovery to archery, family and friends, and a management internship he has at NASA. Ruth was wounded in Iraq in 2003 and 2006, and in Afghanistan in 2009. He suffered head and back injuries in addition to his leg wounds.
Hix was confident Ruth would do well at the Valor Games.
“He went out there with a notion he wasn’t going to win,” Hix said.
Ruth proved himself wrong.
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)