Know the Warrior: A New Reality 

Team Navy Master Chief Steve Flemming wins a silver medal in the standing air rifle competition at the 2024 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 24, 2024.

By Army Sgt. Jason Goselin

In the face of adversity, there exists a unique group of individuals whose connections lie in their determination to adapt, overcome, and recover. This year, from June 21-30, they will compete in the 2024 Department of Defense Warrior Games at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. 

Master Chief Steve Flemming, an active-duty Navy corpsman, spent the last 18 years with a clear idea of the direction he was heading, until a surprise cancer diagnosis forced him to reevaluate his life path.

“I came back from a work trip at 5:00 a.m., went to the doctor at 7:00 a.m. and found out I had stage four pancreatic cancer,” said Flemming. “It’s about getting your head around your new reality.” 

 After some months of treatment and with support from his family, Flemming started thinking about the future. 

“The adaptive sports conversation came up with my medical case manager,” said Flemming. “We were talking about recovery and what life after the Navy will look like.” 

After learning about and training in a variety of adaptive sports, Flemming found it to be challenging and therapeutic. 

“I’ve always done combat marksman-type of things, but Olympic style precision air rifles are a whole different beast,” said Flemming. “With archery, I’ve found a lot of serenity in that from a mental standpoint.”

Flemming will compete in multiple events including archery, swimming, cycling, and shooting precision air rifles, where he’s already received a medal.

“I got a silver medal in standing rifle and couldn’t be more pumped about that,” said Flemming. 

Flemming highlighted the uniqueness of the Navy’s recovery unit, as it’s entirely voluntary, and you have to know about the program to get into the program. His motivation to recover and compete is also driven by his desire to set a strong example for his children.

“I hope having my daughters see me train kind of inspires them or fuels them in their endeavors,” said Flemming. “ Whether it’s now or whether it’s after I’m gone.” 

The community Flemming has found is one he’s proud to be a part of, and that the relationship between competitors is authentic since they all share the common road to recovery. 

“There’s friendly banter across services,” said Flemming. “But in the end, everybody here is fighting their own fight, whether it be visible or invisible.”