I thought it would be just another quick interview when I pulled up to Grovetown Middle School on a hot June morning two weeks ago.
I was wrong.
I had spoken with Scott Winkler over the phone, but we had yet to meet face to face. The Iraq war veteran is going on his fourth year in a wheelchair after an injury in Tikrit paralyzed him from the abs down.
He drove up in his black pickup truck by himself. I was looking for a friend, a family member, a coach - someone who would help him.
Honestly, in the hot sun, I needed more help holding up my pen and note pad than he did with his eight-pound shots.
Winkler showed up for his usual workout to give me a demonstration of what he does. He was then preparing for the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships. He returned this week as the world record holder in the F54 men's shot put thanks to a throw of 10.01 meters.
On an overgrown patch of grass just off the Grovetown Middle School football field, it was obvious there was much more to him than world records.
"There's hidden talent ready to be found anywhere," he said as he used one hand to balance himself in his wheelchair and another to pound an iron rod into the ground with a hammer. "If you believe, you can achieve."
It sounds cliche, but nothing could have been further from the truth when watching his workout routine. Winkler not only has no feeling in his legs and feet, the paralysis goes all the way up to his abs. A sit-up is impossible. Any kind of mobility has to come from his arms.
That's all he needs.
"It's the same form. There's no difference sitting or standing," he said with a shot held tightly near his face.
With each toss, the shot or discus went a little further. He went through several tosses in the hot sun, then climbed down out of the throwing chair and wheeled out to collect his equipment. Then it was back into the throwing chair for another round. The pattern continued with each round an improvement on the other.
Then, apparently, it was my turn.
"Want to try?" he asked. "I want you to see what it feels like."
Mustering all the knowledge I could recall from a two-week unit on field events in a ninth grade P.E. class at Augusta Christian three centuries ago under then-football coach Steve Price, I reluctantly grabbed a shot and headed toward the chair.
Andy Tucker, the Augusta Chronicle photographer assigned to shoot the workout, suddenly started firing away on his camera with the speed of a hyperactive ferret.
Immediately, I was called out for using my legs. Then my form was off. Then a reprimand for using my abs.
By the time I got the hang of it, my arms hung lifelessly at my sides, sweat poured off my forehead and four eight-pound shots sat mocking me from six feet away.
Needless to say, it was an eye-opener.
To tell the truth, Winkler doesn't have to be at that field for a minimum of two hours a day almost every day of the week. No one makes him leave an air-conditioned house to roll, climb and crawl around a make-shift practice field.
It would be easier to hold a remote control and a Mountain Dew in a comfy recliner instead of an eight-pound shot and a discus in the hot, summer sun.
He does it anyway.
"That's what I want people to know. Just because you're disabled it's not the end of the world," he said. "There's so much to do. You don't have to sit at home just because you're in a chair."
Work or play - he doesn't. Winkler said his Fourth of July plans included fireworks with his family and a day on the lake.
"I'm trying my best. That's all I can do," he said.
There's no better Independence Day plan than that.
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