Mason Symons came from a military family and had ambitions to join the armed forces from an early age. He served as a specialist in the Army from 2008–11, but then one day things changed very suddenly.
Mason was driving through a small Pennsylvania town on May 15, 2009, on his way to work when he suddenly lost control of his motorcycle. He incurred a devastating spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed at the age of 20.
Mason spent four months recovering in Magee Rehabilitation Center. Shortly thereafter, Mason was introduced to Paralyzed Veterans of America and was invited to a trapshooting competition in Las Vegas, which gave him a chance to travel and meet other veterans with spinal cord injuries. “It was the first time I had been traveling in a while,” Mason said. “I was able to meet new people, sit down and chat. It opened up a whole new world.”
This experience with Paralyzed Veterans and the new inspiration he found by traveling to new places and meeting new people in similar situations provided Mason with the motivation he needed to move on with his life. Although the road ahead of him would be long and difficult, Mason found comfort and motivation in an up-and-coming sport, wheelchair rugby.
Wheelchair rugby, also known as murderball, a fast-paced and full-contact sport, quickly became Mason’s escape and motivation to carry on despite the challenges of managing a spinal cord injury, as it was similar to something he had done in the past. “I played sports in college—rugby, football, wrestling. It keeps me motivated,” Mason said.
This motivation brought Mason all the way to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Richmond, VA, in which he participated in not only rugby, but also weightlifting, slalom, table tennis and air gun competitions. After those successful performances, Mason made plans to continue his wheelchair rugby career.
“I want to be on the U.S. Olympic team in wheelchair rugby,” Mason has stated. Like the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, that goal will also provide motivation to continue his training and rehabilitation. “It keeps me on track to complete the mission,” he said.
Mason’s experiences enable him to prove himself to those who doubt him. He believes people have misconceptions about those living with disabilities, mainly that they “underestimate your capabilities.” Proving independence is key for Mason, and he believes his experiences with Paralyzed Veterans and his involvement in wheelchair rugby go a long way toward doing so.
Mason’s future ambitions do not stop with wheelchair rugby, however. He would like to continue his education and pursue a degree in social work or psychology.
“I want to go back to school,” he said. “I want to help paralyzed veterans. I want to give back.”