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Iraq war vet: 'Now it's time to win' at Paralympics

Transforming the despair of being paralyzed in battle into determination, Iraq war veteran Scott Winkler sets his sights on a medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

LONDON -- "I love my country. I fought for it, and now it's time to win for it,” said U.S. Army Iraq war veteran Scott Winkler, who was paralyzed in 2003 while serving on a mission in Tikrit.

"When you raise your hand and you swear to your country, that is the chance you have to take. That's the biggest part of being a soldier," Winkler, now a shot putter on the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team, told NBC News.


Bound to a wheelchair for life, he battled depression and went through a divorce. While in recovery at the VA Augusta Spinal Cord Injury Unit in Georgia, it was a struggle to regain self-sufficiency.

"I said enough is enough. I don't want anyone taking care of me and dressing me, bathing me. ... I'm a soldier," Winkler, 39, said.

Resolute
Determined to find another way to serve his country, he dug into physical strength building and joined the Paralympic U.S. Track and Field circuit.

Within a year, Winkler, broke the world record in the Paralympic shot put. In 2007, he won gold in the shot put at the Para-Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a toss of 10.53 meters (34 feet 6 inches).

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Winkler then set his sights on the Beijing Paralympic Games, and in 2008, he made history as one of the first Iraq war veterans to ever compete in the Games.

"I started thinking to myself a little motto. If you believe you can achieve. And I kept saying to myself, 'I believe I can make the team.' And I achieved it and I made that team," he said.

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After narrowly missing a medal in Beijing but finding further golden success at the 2011 Para-Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, he is going into London 2012 with his focus firmly on reaching the podium.

'I wouldn't change a thing'
Winkler is now happily remarried and devoted to helping others overcome their disabilities.

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He co-founded Champions Made From Adversity, a non-profit that provides sports and leisure activities for people with physical disabilities and their families.

Even if he had the chance to magically go back in time and reverse his paralysis, he said he would not do so.

Retired U.S. Marine Angela Madsen once lived out of a locker at Disneyland. But the 52-year-old paraplegic turned her life around and has rowed across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She's now competing for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in London. Madsen told her story to NBC's Jamieson Lesko.

"I'm happy the way I am. God put me this way for a reason – to spread the word that there is life after injury -- and I wouldn't change a thing," he said.

PhotoBlog: 2012 Paralympics kick off with the first day of action

Winkler takes the stage of one the world’s biggest sporting event on Saturday when the shot put competition begins.

Read Scott Winkler's profile in the London 2012 Paralympic site

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