CMP Awards First Distinguished Marksman Badge Points – A Program for Disabled Athletes
August 5, 2022Civilian Marksmanship Program▸State Director▸Massachusetts▸CMP Awards First Distinguished Marksman Badge Points – A Program for Disabled Athletes
As part of its role in the marksmanship community, the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is appointed the honor of distributing Distinguished Badges, the highest individual awards authorized by the U. S. Government for excellence in marksmanship competition. Individuals earn a badge after firing in Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) events and earning at least 30 EIC points and other requirements.
Though the program is offered to competitors in a wide assortment of firearm disciplines, the physical constraints to earn a badge on the firing line left a population of marksmen and women unable to earn a badge of their own – those bearing debilitating conditions.
Thankfully, in 2019, the CMP introduced the Distinguished Marksman Badge, which allows competitors with a permanent disability or impairment that requires the use of adaptive firing positions, equipment or techniques to become eligible to earn the necessary credit points towards a badge in EIC events.
After a long wait, on July 10, 2022, the very first Distinguished Marksman EIC points were awarded.
“I love shooting and wanted to go Distinguished,” said Mark Walsh, 52, of Stoneham, Massachusetts, who was the recipient of the points. “I think it would be a great achievement for a disabled veteran to accomplish and maybe inspire others with disabilities to get into our great sport.”
Walsh began in marksmanship when he joined the Navy Reserve as a Seabee in 2000. There, he made a connection with a superior who taught Walsh how to use a firearm for more than just occupational use.
“We had to qualify every year with a M16,” Walsh explained. “My chief, Franco Scarpino, was a highpower shooter. He taught me how to shoot and got me into shooting.”
In 2003, Walsh went into the Army Reserve as a combat engineer. The position carried him to Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and it was during his stay that he gained the injuries that would take him away from marksmanship competition.
Walsh developed a degenerative disc disease in his lower back and neck, which causes neuropathy in his hands and legs. He also has arthritis in both knees as well as his back, neck and hands. Additionally, he’s had to have reconstruction surgery on his left knee to remove scar tissue and both menisci (the meniscus cartilage that acts as a shock absorber for the joint).
His ailments left him unable to carry out the required, legal positioning in competition that would keep him eligible for regular EIC points and made competing difficult, so, he retired from the sport. In 2020, he realized how much he missed the range, and, with a new chance at a Distinguished Badge, decided to again take to the firing line.
“I really like all the focus, attention to detail and discipline that is needed to break a good shot,” he said of his love of marksmanship, “Also, the camaraderie with other shooters, especially fellow veterans.”
On the range, Walsh competes in a variety of disciplines such as highpower, mid-range and smallbore rifle. Now set out to finish what he has started with his badge journey, Walsh is hopeful for the possibilities – especially given the encouragement around him.
“I am very honored to be able to be the first one to earn points,” Walsh said. “I have some great people who support me and coach me. People in this sport are great and very willing to help anyone out.”
He credits members of the nearby Reading Rifle & Revolver Club (where he often competes) like Maureen Trickett, Charlie Trickett and Bob Ward for assisting in his training.
“I will continue to work with these great people and my scores will continue to rise,” he said with confidence.
For anyone else whose bodies feel unconditioned for the firing line but wish to accomplish something new in the marksmanship world, Walsh has simple yet profound advice.
“Just get out there,” he said. “Most importantly, practice as much as you can. This is a great sport that you can do well into your golden years. I didn’t start back shooting until I was 50. If I can do it, anyone can.”
He went on, “Self-care is number one. Physical therapy and occupational therapy have really helped me be more mobile. Use the resources that are available. There are organizations out there to help with getting equipment, guns and transportation.”
Of course, the CMP – as an ambassador of marksmanship for all citizens – is a constant resource for those wishing to get involved in the sport. Staff members are available to help in any way possible, always ready to answer questions as well as to provide outlets for anyone interested in firearm safety and competition.
As for Walsh, with his first points tallied, he’s now on his way to making what he thought was impossible, possible – earning that Distinguished Badge.
“I really want to thank the Reading Rifle and Revolver, Nashua Fish and Game and Pelham Fish and Game Clubs and their members for their help and encouragement,” he said. “I can never thank enough or ever repay them for everything they have done for me. And a big thank you to CMC Franco Scarpino for being my first coach and introducing me to our great sport.”
“Hold still, squeeze the trigger,” Walsh added. “It sounds easier than it is.”
To learn more about the Distinguished Marksman Badge, visit the CMP website at https://thecmp.org/competitions/distinguishedbadges/distinguished-marksman-badge/.