HMCM (FMF) Steve Flemming joined the Navy fresh out of high school. He joked that he joined for the money, but upon reflection, it was more than that.

“I look back now, and it was the recruiter himself, whom I have since connected with, and is now a retired MMC. He was pretty direct and professional in how he talked about the Navy and all the travel that could come from it,” he said.

Indeed Flemming’s career led to travel. His role as Fleet Marine Force Corpsman required him to provide medical and operational services for Fleet Marine Force personnel who were engaged in direct action operations. After ground combat operations with marines in Sangin, Afghanistan, Flemming developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“This is something I’m not ashamed of. I find being around other service members with similar experience to help take on the challenges associated with this.”

In 2018, Flemming was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). He made serious changes to his diet, routines, and medicines and was able to stay on active duty while managing it. Then in January 2023, while deployed to Marines Corps Forces Central Command (MARCENT), he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

“To get this news on top of MS before I was 40, or at any age, I can tell you was beyond hard to hear. Your mind can take you into some dark corners. I went out walking for miles and cleared my head. After going through the news of MS years before, I accepted this new reality with the help of my wife.”

Together, they began planning with a clinical care team to make the best decisions for his care. He connected with Navy Wounded Warrior as part of his injury-management process. They helped to fill in the gaps for his non-medical care and introduced him to adaptive sports. In November 2023, Flemming attended his first sports camp at The St. James in Springfield, Va.

“I was interested in taking on something challenging and being around others who are in their fights or recovery. I have always enjoyed competitive and challenging events, so this was a great way to potentially represent, and also head out from the Navy. Navy Team, Navy Pride!”

It was at this camp that Flemming discovered a love for adaptive archery. Upon his return, his recovery care coordinator at Navy Wounded Warrior connected him with a sponsor to allow him to pursue the sport away from camps.

“I’m blessed to have this opportunity. Everyone I met, be it coaches, athletes, and staff blow me away with their dedication, enthusiasm, and professionalism they bring to this. I have a new personal goal of representing Team Navy at the Warrior Games and maybe, with a little luck, get to represent Team USA at Invictus.”

Flemming’s diagnosis has impacted all aspects of his professional and personal life, from side effects of treatments to symptoms of the diseases themselves. He remains positive and purposeful. He has had conversations with other service members facing similar diagnoses and offers advice from his own experiences.

“Get in a position where you aren’t denying or doubting your circumstances and you start finding the mental walls or blind spots to start solving those problems to make the most of your life. Adapt what needs to be changed so you can still accomplish what you want to take on in life. Take command of your life and the reality that you have been given. You are still in the driver’s seat, not your injury or illness.”