Thursday, May 19, 2011
Photo by Kristin Ellis
Wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen stood side-by-side under the U.S. Olympic banner for the opening ceremony. This is how they fight, and this is how they’ve been competing during the week.
The Warrior Games are aimed to inspire recovery, capitalize on physical fitness, and promote new opportunities for growth and achievement among America’s wounded servicemembers. The Warrior athletes — nine of whom are Walter Reed Army Medical Center Soldiers — are competing in seven events including archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball. Whichever military service earns the most points by tomorrow’s closing ceremony will win the ‘‘Commander’s Cup.” In addition, individual servicemembers are competing for the ‘‘Ultimate Warrior” title in a pentathlon-styled competition.
‘‘These games are a way for you to represent our country on a different battlefield, not only showcasing your hard-earned athletic prowess in highly-competitive events, but your pride and desire to represent your services as part of a team,” Adm. James Winnefeld, commander, U.S. Northern Command, told the athletes during the opening ceremony. ‘‘These games, and those of you who participate in them, embody the best of our nation’s warrior spirit and our attitude that ‘We cannot be defeated,’ either as a nation, as a military, as a unit, or as a person.”
The Army Warrior Transition Command, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy partnered with the U.S. Olympic Committee last year to create the first ever Warrior Games. Athletes are recruited from an independent selection process and training for WRAMC Warrior athletes began in the winter. The leadership saw these games as part of the overall holistic approach in which wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers are supported, treated and vocationally rehabilitated to prepare them to successfully return to duty or a productive civilian life.
‘‘[The Warrior Games] are a shining light, showing our nation that both the human spirit and just plain hard work and grit, against what many would view as insurmountable odds... how hard you have had to work to be here today,” he continued.
‘‘The benefits to our military members mentally and physically are unbelievable and immeasurable,” Winnefeld said. ‘‘But sometimes I think the biggest winners are the ones lucky enough to see you, to meet you, and to be inspired by your service and determination.”
‘‘None of us wants to be defined by our injury or our illness,” said Capt. Lisa Merwin during a news conference before the games began. She is a breast cancer survivor who is competing in the 10-kilometer cycling and 50-meter swimming events.
‘‘We’re fighters,” Merwin added. ‘‘Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, we seek to be survivors and to be fighters and persevere, that’s just the military way. That’s who we are.”
Winnefeld concluded by thanking those responsible for these servicemembers’ care, the hundred of volunteers from the Colorado Springs and beyond, and the ‘‘millions of Americans supporting them from the shadows.”