Chris Nowak

Age: 47 | Washington, D.C.
U.S. Marine Corps
Director, VA National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events

It was like any typical day at the firing range: up before the sun and hours spent shooting for weapons qualification. But in a communication mix-up, U.S. Marine Corps rifleman, Chris Nowak headed downrange to fix a target. He was accidentally shot in his right leg. At 22, he was a below-the-knee amputee.
Over the next few years, Chris battled depression and a feeling of loss. He planned to make a career with the Marine Corps, and the athlete couldn’t fathom being benched for the rest of his life. Through VA, Chris was introduced to the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and discovered that, even without a limb, he could still pursue one of his passions—hockey. By the age of 34, Chris made the U.S. National Amputee Hockey Team, where he held the position of right winger for three years.
Chris’ progress didn’t end with hockey. He was hired by the VA to work in the prosthetics field. Now more than two decades after his accident, he is the Director of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events for VA. Because of his injury, Chris not only recognizes the struggles amputee Veterans face coming home, but the importance of support, rehabilitation, and finding a reason to get up every morning.
“When I came home, I tried to deal with my injury alone and I had a lot of setbacks because of that,” Chris said. “You can’t do it alone. Whether you’ve a Veteran who has lost a limb, has traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder, I encourage you to reach out to your fellow Vets and VA. We can support you.”

Watch Chris' video