Gates Hosts Paralympic Team at Pentagon
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 20, 2010 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today told the members of the U.S. Paralympic team that they are inspirations to all members of the armed forces.
Gates hosted the team that competed at the Vancouver, British Columbia, winter games at his Pentagon office.
The Paralympic movement began after World War II, when returning GIs -- many wounded in combat -- looked for ways to continue competing. “It’s important in healing injured servicemembers,” said Charlie Huebner, secretary general of the U.S. Paralympic Committee.
“My transition from a disabled veteran to a disabled athlete was aided by the Defense Department,” said Heath Calhoun, a squad leader with the 101st Airborne Division who lost both legs after his vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. “For me, it is a personal thing. It’s the power of sport in my life and knowing how it’s helped me rehabilitate, and I just want to say, ‘Thank you very much.’”
The team left the Pentagon to visit with servicemembers undergoing treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
“I can’t tell you how much it means to me personally, but also to the wounded men and women in uniform to have you visit them in the hospitals,” Gates said. “You are an inspiration to them and an example of what they can do. That aids their healing process.”
Gates told the team he was honored to host them at the Pentagon.
“The courage and determination that Olympians and Paralympians demonstrate is an example not just for everybody in uniform, but for everybody in this country,” Gates said.
“All of you make all Americans proud.”