WEST POINT, N.Y., June 22, 2016 —
The Air Force sitting volleyball team claimed gold as the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games wound down at the U.S. Military Academy here yesterday, squeaking ahead of U.S. Special Operations Command, 25-22.
In bracket play June 15, Socom upset the U.S. Army to square off against the Air Force squad that defeated the Marine Corps team, putting the Air Force team in position for the gold.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James presented the gold medals to each of the team members.
Warrior Games, Role Models
Team captain and primary setter Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ferrell, credited the 12-member squad’s victory to a total team approach and vowed to continue to inspiring future athletes through adaptive sports and reintegration programs such as the Warrior Games. He noted that while some athletes may overcome their struggles, others need more outreach.
“When you start battling all this you don’t want your teammates to see weakness in you. Especially young guys and young girls; they’re looking up to you,” Ferrell said. “Eventually it gets to the point where you crack. Like a crack in the windshield, it starts off small -- then gets bigger and bigger until everything shatters.”
And often, the people who come to the rescue are family members, he said. “That’s why we have these programs -- it’s been able to bring all of us together and help our families pick up the shattered pieces.”
Air Force veteran and volleyball teammate Staff Sgt. Rob Harper shares Ferrell’s sentiment, recounting his return from deployment and acceptance of his own recovery process. He used to go to work, he said, come home, and watch his ceiling fan rotate for hours on end as part of his escape and coping process.
“You don’t want to be something, you don’t want to be a member of society, you don’t feel that you deserve to be here because your buddies -- your team members -- are not here,” Harper said. “Fathers, brothers, sons; those men aren’t here anymore -- we are.So at your lowest point, the only thing you’re thinking about is, ‘Why me? Why was I chosen?’”
Gold medal still around his neck, Harper answered his own question.
“‘Why me?’ is because we can sit here and talk to you without freaking out having a conversation about being in the war,” Harper explained. “‘Why me?’ now has turned into an advocacy mark for all of us to [speak] for the men and women who can’t be here with us.”
Event regulations state a match consists of the best two of three sets. A team must earn 25 points and have a two-point advantage over its opponent to win the first two sets. To win set three, a team must earn 15 points and have a two-point advantage over its opponent.
Athletes are classified into one of three functional classification categories for team play: open, moderate or maximum, indicating minimal, moderate or maximum functional limitations.
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDoDNews)