USA — Officials Announce Warrior Games 2011

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2010 — Some 200 dis­abled active duty mem­bers and vet­er­ans will com­pete in the 2nd Annu­al War­rior Games May 16 to 21 in Col­orado Springs, Colo., offi­cials announced today.

The U.S. Olympic Com­mit­tee will host the games at the Olympic Train­ing Cen­ter for the sec­ond year. The events will include shoot­ing, swim­ming, archery, track and field, cycling, sit­ting vol­ley­ball and wheel­chair bas­ket­ball.

The Army will be rep­re­sent­ed by 100 com­peti­tors cho­sen out of a pool of more than 9,000 active duty sol­diers recov­er­ing in War­rior Tran­si­tion Units. The Marine Corps will send 50 com­peti­tors, the Air Force will send 25, and the Coast Guard and Navy will com­bine to send 25.

The Defense Depart­ment, USOC and the USO hope to build on the inau­gur­al games’ suc­cess, help­ing to prove to even more wound­ed war­riors the true heal­ing pow­er of sports, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence.

“When we focus on abil­i­ty, rather than dis­abil­i­ty, we see that phys­i­cal fit­ness and sports can have a heal­ing effect on the mind and on the body and on the soul,” Mullen said. “The ath­letes that com­pete in the War­rior Games demon­strate that regard­less of cir­cum­stance, phys­i­cal fit­ness and a pas­sion to win remain at the core of our mil­i­tary cul­ture.

“And while these val­ues are cer­tain­ly impor­tant on the bat­tle­field, they’re cer­tain­ly impor­tant in the recov­ery process of our wound­ed, ill and injured troops,” he con­tin­ued. Mullen said he hopes more wound­ed war­riors will com­pete for a spot in Col­orado Springs.

“We encour­age our wound­ed war­riors with a desire to com­pete to noti­fy their own squad lead­ers, [non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers] or lead­ing pet­ty offi­cers to get the appli­ca­tion process start­ed right away,” the admi­ral said. “The response to our inau­gur­al War­rior Games was tru­ly out­stand­ing. We look for­ward to an even bet­ter expe­ri­ence next spring.”

Char­lie Hueb­n­er, chair­man of USOC’s Par­a­lympics Com­mit­tee, echoed Mullen’s remarks, say­ing the com­pe­ti­tion and dri­ve the ath­letes showed at the inau­gur­al games in May was an inspi­ra­tion to all ath­letes and dis­abled peo­ple.

“I’ve been to a lot of sport­ing event …, but I’ve nev­er felt more inten­si­ty, more emo­tion and more com­pet­i­tive spir­it in my life at a sports event,” he said, recall­ing an Army-Marine Corps sit­ting vol­ley­ball match that came down to the wire. “We see it every day in the Par­a­lympics move­ment, the incred­i­ble pow­er of sports.”

Sports, Hueb­n­er said, give those who’ve suf­fered dis­abil­i­ties a “sec­ond chance,” whether it’s pur­su­ing Par­a­lympics dreams or sim­ply play­ing bas­ket­ball with friends in their com­mu­ni­ty.

“Some 200 injured ser­vice­mem­bers who came to Col­orado last year got to feel that mag­ic; the pow­er to heal, the pow­er to com­pete and the pow­er to dream,” he said. “They were touched by that at the inau­gur­al war­rior games, but the impact of these games, more impor­tant­ly, is what hap­pened when they went home.”

Sta­cy Pearsall, a retired Air Force staff sergeant who was injured in Iraq, found inspi­ra­tion in her fel­low com­peti­tors at the inau­gur­al games. She recalled the efforts of retired Marine Lance Cpl. Chuck Sketch.

Sketch lost his sight in August 1997 from a brain tumor, and then had to be ampu­tat­ed from the waist down in Jan­u­ary 1998 due to com­pli­ca­tions from the same tumor. His inau­gur­al game events were swim­ming.

“The one thing that real­ly got me going was see­ing a Marine, blind and a dou­ble amputee, swim­ming,” Pearsall said. “I thought, man, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ It made me much more moti­vat­ed in my recov­ery.”

War­rior Games 2010 was so suc­cess­ful and had a such a pos­i­tive effect on the wound­ed war­rior com­mu­ni­ty that the field of ath­letes next year is like­ly to be even more com­pet­i­tive.

The com­pe­ti­tion is open to mil­i­tary mem­bers and vet­er­ans with bod­i­ly injuries as well as men­tal wounds of war, such as post-trau­mat­ic stress and trau­mat­ic brain injury.

Like the inau­gur­al games, ath­letes will be recruit­ed from each of the mil­i­tary ser­vices, includ­ing the Coast Guard, through an inde­pen­dent selec­tion process. The games itself won’t be much dif­fer­ent than last year, but the com­pe­ti­tion may be a lit­tle more chal­leng­ing.

The Army and Marine Corps are already hold­ing pre­lim­i­nary com­pe­ti­tions, sure­ly to strength­en their chances at gold.

The inau­gur­al games was sort of a “feel­ing out” process, said retired Marine Corps Mas­ter Sgt. William “Spanky” Gib­son, who lost his low­er left leg in Iraq just more than four years ago.

“A lot of the ath­letes will come out in broad­er spec­trum this time,” Gib­son said. “That’s what the Marine Corps is going to do. We’re going to have com­pe­ti­tions lead­ing up to this stuff. We’re going to do what we nat­u­ral­ly do. We’re going to train to com­pete.

“We want our best ath­letes out there, but we want more ath­letes to come out of the wood works and work their butts off to get there,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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