General Looks to Warrior Games’ Future
By Elizabeth M. Collins
Army News Service
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 12, 2010 Only one day into the inaugural Warrior Games for wounded, ill and injured servicemembers at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here, the commander of the Army’s Warrior Transition Command already is dreaming about future competitions.
Brig. Gen. Gary H. Cheek, commander of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command, looks on as soldiers receive a pep talk after defeating Navy in wheelchair basketball preliminaries at the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 11, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Doug Sample
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Brig. Gen. Gary H. Cheek, who also is the Army’s assistant surgeon general for warrior care and transition, said he hopes the games will become an annual event with additional sporting categories, winter sports and even the participation of U.S. allies.
Cheek helped to conceive the competition after a 50-mile bike ride in April 2009 with Ride to Recovery, which takes wounded warriors on a 500-mile, cross-country ride. The games came from a conversation Cheek had with Ride to Recovery’s founder and a USO representative who asked what else the USO could do for wounded warriors.
“And between the three of us, we kind of came up with … an Olympic competition, where we bring all these warriors from the services to compete against each other and really maximize this notion of physical competition,” the general explained.
“The thing that was so neat about that ride is I rode 50 miles and I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since high school,” Cheek continued. “I got a sense of accomplishment that I made it 50 miles on a bike, and so did all those warriors. And heck, they went on and rode for 500 miles. That’s what we’re trying to get. There’s a much greater sense of accomplishment by doing something very, very challenging. … [The Warrior Games competition] gets them out here, knocking heads, competing hard, doing things that are difficult. It gives a sense of purpose and reward.”
The games have exceeded his wildest expectations, Cheek said as he watched Army beat Navy during yesterday’s wheelchair basketball preliminaries. It shows servicemembers that there is life after their injuries, he noted, and also is testimony to the care and skill of military medical professionals, especially as some of the soldiers have been injured only months ago and are competing in as many as three events at the games.
“It’s pretty miraculous what our medical departments in the various services have been able to do to help all of these warriors heal and continue to move forward,” the general said. “And the fact that they’re doing multiple sports partly is because we wanted them to do multiple sports, but they did as well. And so they are all competing in things - some things that they did before, but other things that they’ve never done before - and that’s where they find these new abilities and new sports that they can potentially do for the rest of their lives.”
Cheek said he hopes the warriors will take their new competitive spirit and inspire their comrades and battle buddies.
“The No. 1 thing I asked all of them to do was to take this flame, this Olympic torch, this spirit it has brought into them … back to their comrades who are also recovering and moving forward and light that spark in them -- get their comrades back into life and into physical activity, and other things as well,” Cheek said. “[The] real purpose of these games is to have a greater impact in the programs we’re running across all the military services in the future.”