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MADISON, IND. — Sgt. Evan Davis could talk for hours about the intricacies and techniques behind competitive air-rifle shooting. But he can summarize it best as “90 percent mental and 10 percent fundamental.”
“It’s a lot like playing golf, because you’re shooting against yourself,” the Madison native said.
Davis, a 1998 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School who also is a medically retired Marine, competed in the Warrior Games this week — an annual event held for wounded soldiers in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He finished 11th out of 30 in the air-rifle category after taking home a silver last year.
More than 250 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans participated, representing five U.S. teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations, as well as one international team from the United Kingdom.
Teams competed in seven sports including archery, cycling, shooting, sitting-volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball.
Davis, the son of Hal Davis and Elaine Robinson, was injured in March 2011 when a howitzer he was standing near exploded during a training exercise. Two months later during his recovery, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“It was serendipitous,” he told The Madison Courier.
Doctors removed his thyroid and treated Davis with radiation, and he is now about 15 months into remission.
In addition to his physical conditions, Davis served in Iraq in 2007 and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his deployment.
“So I’ve been injured, sick, and I have PTSD from being over in Iraq,” he said, listing the conditions he has had to face.
Since retiring medically from the military in November 2012, Davis has moved back to Madison and is looking for employment with a nonprofit or as a counselor.
He participated in the Warrior Games for the second straight year. Last year, he received a silver medal in air-rifle shooting, being bested only by the smallest of margins by a fellow Marine.
Davis found the Warrior Games while recovering from the explosion and cancer treatment in North Carolina with the Wounded Warrior Battalion. Already known for his marksmanship, he volunteered to participate in the competition.
Turns out, it was a good fit.
“I always kind of had a knack for it,” Davis said of his shooting skills.
It goes a little deeper than that. During his 10 years in the Marine Corps, Davis has earned expert-shooter status — the highest shooting recognition — eight times.
But he said shooting his service weapon is much different from the air rifles used in the Warrior Games.
All contestants use Olympic-grade guns that cost about $3,000 each. During the shooting division, contestants shoot from different approaches, laying down or standing, depending on the category.
Davis participated in the air-rifle category, which involves shooting from the standing and laying position. The top eight shooters move from the preliminary rounds to the finals, and during that round, each person gets 10 shots — one every 45 seconds.
The target is 10 meters — just more than 32 feet - away.
“The targets are no wider than two of my thumbs put together,” Davis said.
In addition to the friendly competition, Davis said he appreciates the camaraderie and support that comes with the Warrior Games.
The Semper Fi Fund, which is a charity that is specifically for injured or wounded Marines, helps pay hotel rooms for some of the Warrior Games participants. The Hero Miles foundation allows people to donate their frequent-flyer miles so that military families can get free flights.
Davis said competing in the event takes his mind away from some of the hardships he has faced in the past few years.
“I get in the zone and I forget about the issues I might have,” he said.