Editor’s note: These stories were produced by the Department of Defense and published here as part of a partnership with Military Times.
Retired Operations Specialist 1st Class Travis “Jigsaw” Wyatt was the Officer of the Deck on the USS Fitzgerald on July 12, 2020. It was docked at Naval Base San Diego on the opposite side of the pier from the USS Bonhomme Richard.
On that fateful day, there was a devastating fire on the Bonhomme Richard, which ultimately engulfed the ship. It caused a massive explosion that knocked Wyatt into a bulkhead on the Fitzgerald. He suffered severe injuries to his chest and back as well as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In addition to the disruption in his cognitive and executive functions, Wyatt suffered from depression, anxiety, memory loss, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Months after the accident, he was at a low point. Wyatt jumped into his Navy career with both feet. His role as an operations specialist was sea-duty intensive. He also worked hard to earn three warfare designations: Aviation Warfare Specialist (AW), Surface Warfare Specialist (SW), and Information Warfare Specialist (IW). When he was no longer deployable, he lost his sense of purpose and even his sense of self. The future he imagined for himself vanish, his body and mind were betraying him, and he contemplated self-harm.
He joined Navy Wounded Warrior to aid with his transition process and started to participate in the adaptive sports program. He met dozens of other service members who could relate to his experiences, from struggling with daily life with a TBI to the jarring recovery and transition process after a severe injury. It gave him a new sense of purpose. He learned that he did not have to give up activities that he loved, like archery, rather he learned to do them differently. Team Navy’s unmatched esprit de corps buoyed him. He maintained strong connections with teammates away from camps and they encouraged him to keep striving to make progress. Wyatt insists this saved his life.
In 2022, Wyatt competed in the 2022 Department of Defense Warrior Games in archery, cycling, shooting, and swimming. He medaled in several events, but his Gold Medal in archery is a stand-out accomplishment. The completion was a grueling 8 hours that required consistent focus and mental acuity. His wife and two young children stayed to cheer him on for round after round of eliminations. His wife, Teea Wyatt, who is also his non-medical attendant, said it was the first time she saw him smile since before the accident.
His amazing transformation and no-quit attitude has earned him the respect and admiration of his shipmates and others who have come to know him. By late 2022, Navy Safe Harbor foundation honored him as the 2022 Wounded Warrior of the Year.
This year, as a returning member of Team Navy, Wyatt has been a mentor and cheerleader for his teammates. Whether he’s providing feedback on controlled breathing in archery or giving a pep talk before cycling time trials, he’s taken personal interest in ensuring the rookie athletes have an enriching experience similar to his own.
In September, Wyatt will represent Team USA in the 2023 Invictus Games. For the 2023 Warrior Games Challenge, he will compete in archery, cycling, field, shooting, and wheelchair rugby.