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Disabled Vets, Troops Compete in First Warrior Games

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 11, 2010 –  Let the games begin.

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Team Marine Corps marches down Olympic Path to a cheering crowd during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10, 2010. Some 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans from all of the military services are competing in Paralympic-style athletic events May 10-14. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

With the lighting of the ceremonial Olympic cauldron by National Football League hall of famer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate Roger Staubach, the much-anticipated inaugural Warrior Games are under way.

Some 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans from all five branches of military service marched proudly down Irwin “Ike” Belk Olympic Path at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here yesterday evening in the games’ opening ceremony.

The ceremony marks the culmination of months of training and an even longer road to recovery for many of the athletes. And although the games are a time for competition and celebration, it may be difficult not to reflect on how the troops earned the title of wounded warrior.

Many had fallen victim to roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, while others suffer from the psychological toll of long bouts of combat. All served and were willing to sacrifice their lives for their country.

“The cloth of your nation is proud of you today,” Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said at the ceremony. “The flag that you fought to represent is proud of you.”

Despite their disabilities, this group of troops has learned to adapt and achieve what many of them may have thought impossible. They marched down the Olympic Path with prosthetic limbs and in wheelchairs with a glow of confidence gleaming from within the formation. The roar of cheers from hundreds of families, friends and supporters may have made it difficult for them to disguise their rough, tough military personas.

But the truth is they should be proud. The troops have come a long way to compete in the Paralympic-style events. More than a few of the participants were restricted at one time to their hospital beds, unable to walk and get around on their own. But this week, they will display their re-learned skills in track and field, cycling, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, archery, swimming and marksmanship events.

Their resolve and desire to improve their lives is an inspiration for the nation, Renuart said, and is in keeping with the military community’s goal to build resilience among its members. The games are a testament of the influence of sports and proof of what one can accomplish through determination and will power, the general added, noting that the games are a “significant event” for Defense Department and military leaders.

“They know how important this is,” he said, “not just to you, but to our services and what we hope to promote for each and every one of our men and women serving as they go forward in their lives.”

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter hailed the troops as heroes and role models, calling them “the pride of America” for volunteering to serve and for their ability to triumph over adversity.

“You really are the core of who we are as a people,” Ritter said. “Your resilience exemplifies the kinds of things that we would all like to believe about ourselves -- that we would like our children to emulate.”

Juan M. Garcia III, assistant Navy secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, lauded the troops for their willingness to compete and to never give up on themselves and their nation. He praised their readiness to accept new challenges.

“Who could not be inspired by what’s going on here?” Garcia asked. “Before us are men and women who suffered injuries both physical and mental. [But] they refuse to be defeated, no matter where their battlefields were –- Afghanistan, Iraq, rehab centers or even their own minds.

“It’s old cliché saying, ‘Getting here makes you winners, no matter the results of the competition,’” Garcia continued. “But just because it’s cliché doesn’t make it less true.”

The games are a joint venture of the Defense Department, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the USO to promote resilience and the healing power of sports. Officials hope to make the games an annual event and possibly expand participation and future venues.

Competition begins today, and the closing ceremony is May 14.

 

Contact Author

Biographies:
Juan M. Garcia III
Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr.

Related Sites:
Special Report: Warrior Games
Warrior Games on Facebook


Click photo for screen-resolution imageA 4th Infantry Division color guard from Fort Carson, Colo., marches down Olympic Path during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10, 2010. Some 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans from all of the military services are competing in Paralympic-style athletic events May 10-14. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSome 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans look on as Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter speaks during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10, 2010. The Warrior Game athletes are competing in Paralympic-style events May 10-14. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro carries the Warrior Games torch down Olympic Path for the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10, 2010. Del Toro is one of some 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans participating in the Paralympic-style competition May 10-14. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA mother and daughter cheer on some 200 competitors at the opening ceremony of the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10, 2010. Wounded warriors and disabled veterans are competing in Paralympic-style events May 10-14. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Staff Sgt. Omar Riojas, a medic stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., and his 4-year-old daughter, Nevaeh, cheer on some 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10, 2010. The Warrior Game athletes are competing in paralympic-style events May 10-14. Riojas is a volunteer who works with Army athletes. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageFamily, friends and supporters celebrate the arrival of 187 competitors in the inaugural Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, May 10, 2010. The athletes are wounded, ill and injured personnel from all service branches and will compete against one another in archery, cycling, track & field, swimming, shooting, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class R. Jason Brunson  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMembers of the Rolling Thunder motorcyclists take advantage of the opportunity to meet some of the 187 competitors at the inaugural Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, May 10, 2010. Rolling Thunder made a special presentation earlier in the day following a five-day trek across the country with flags flown over the USS Arizona, Korea’s demilitarized zone, Germany’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, and locations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group transported the flags from the sites of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York, and the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pa. Each of the flags will be flown for one day during the five-day competition. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class R. Jason Brunson  
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