2011 Warrior Games get underway today

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Opening ceremonies for the 2011 Warrior Games began today at 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

This event is the culmination of months of grueling work and tireless preparation by 200 wounded warrior athletes from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. And before that athletic training could even begin, many of these athletes spent months or even years striving to achieve a basic recovery from their wounds, injuries and illnesses. The Warrior Games are a highly visible and shining demonstration of the triumph of the spirit over the greatest adversity – of the power of ability over disability.

Beyond the scope of this one event, thousands of other wounded, ill and injured Service members and Veterans are using adaptive sports and athletic reconditioning programs to help with their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. These programs go far beyond physical reconditioning. They provide a focus and motivation to rehabilitation, challenging the individual to keep — or regain — the attitude and mental edge that made them outstanding warriors. These programs keep the warrior engaged in life, socially active, and effective in building new networks of other wounded, ill and injured warriors who refuse to let their physical conditions keep them out of the game. These programs even help some become “more than before,” challenging them to accomplish feats they didn’t even attempt before their injuries or illnesses.

The Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy is proud to be involved in the Warrior Games, and dedicated to the continued support of the athletic reconditioning programs that prepare our wounded warriors to compete. These warriors are an inspiration, not only through their achievements at these Games, but for their victories in all aspects of their lives.

The best of luck to each of you.

Be inspired:

CAPT Bernie Carter, Director of the Navy Safe Harbor Program, blogs about the Navy/Coast Guard team on DoDLive:

Navy wheelchair basket ball teamNaturally, physical activity plays a significant role in Service members’ everyday lives. Indeed, it often is a vital part of their personal identities. From their first days in the military until the conclusion of their service, they are expected to remain strong and fit.

But, when they become ill or injured, many Service members fear their days of athletic accomplishment are behind them. In addition to losing some of their physical abilities and freedoms, many also lose their sense of self.

That’s why adaptive sports – activities modified to meet the abilities of injured or ill individuals – are so important to wounded warrior care. Adaptive sports are proven to have positive and lasting effects on recovering Service members’ physical and emotional well-being.

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tyler Burdick, a new member of Team Navy/Coast Guard, says of the Warrior Games: “It’s great to see injured guys come together, share their stories, and get active. Despite their diagnoses, they are leading normal lives; in some ways, their lives are richer than they were before.”

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Aquita Brown from the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment tells the story of Chuck Sketch, a blind swimmer and cyclist who carried the torch in last year’s Games and returns to compete in 2011:

Chuck Sketch swimmingIn 1997, Chuck received devastating news that would change his life forever. He was diagnosed with cancer and his sight was the first thing to go as a result of a brain tumor.

“When you get disabled you think that you are worthless,” said Chuck. “You want things to go back to how they were. I don’t have any regrets and I honestly do not want things to change. I have more fun and more opportunities than I did before. I am doing more things than most of my friends that I served with have never done.”

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Patricia Sands posted a story on the Army’s Warrior Transition Command Blog about SSG Peter Torruella, an archer on the Army team, who approached his athletic reconditioning in true Army style.

SSG Peter TorruellaSSG Torruella was injured and part of his recovery plan was to learn a new sport. He had just started archery earlier this year and quickly started excelling. Today, he is ranked second among his fellow Warrior Games Army archers. When I responded with the word, “Remarkable” he responded, “I was just following orders.” He was told to hit the bull’s-eye, and he did. He made us all laugh, but it was no joke. He didn’t think he had the option of failing after being in the Army.

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Erica Picariello reported on the Air Force Team’s preparations on the Air Force Wounded Warrior program’s Website

While these warriors may have worked alongside their sister Service members in battle, they will compete against each other May 16 through 21, in a variety of Paralympics-type events at the Olympic Training Center.

“This is an important event because a lot of times the athletes are experiencing sports for the first time post-injury or post-illness,” said Cami Stock, the USAF Warrior Games team head coach. “I think this is an opportunity for them to push themselves past what they expect they can do and translate that perseverance into other parts of their lives.”

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Throughout this week, wounded warrior athletes will demonstrate the power of ability over disability again and again.  Watch and be inspired.

Follow complete coverage of the 2011 Warrior Games on the Pentagon Channel at http://www.pentagonchannel.mil/pcindex.aspx?category=Warrior+Games