USA — Wounded Troops Challenge Obstacle Course

WEST POINT, N.Y. — They run road races and com­pete in triathlons. They climb moun­tains, kayak through rapids and ski on snow and water.

U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Wege and Army Pvt. Har­ri­son Ruz­ic­ka race past a cheer­ing Corps of Cadets crowd as they make their way through the indoor obsta­cle course test at Arvin Gym­na­si­um at the U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my, West Point, N.Y., Sept. 10, 2010.
U.S. Army pho­to by John Pelli­no
Click to enlarge

They are America’s wound­ed war­riors — vet­er­ans who con­tin­ue to inspire by their resilience and will to over­come any obsta­cle placed before them.

Six Army sol­diers and one Marine from Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., vis­it­ed the U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my here Sept. 10 to test their abil­i­ties on a chal­leng­ing set of obsta­cles.

The indoor obsta­cle course test is a rite of pas­sage for all West Point cadets as a tes­ta­ment to their phys­i­cal for­ti­tude. Being able to make it through this intense test of bal­ance, strength and sta­mi­na is hard enough, giv­en months of prac­tice and train­ing. But for the wound­ed war­riors, with only hours of prepa­ra­tion, the test was an inspi­ra­tional exam­ple of the War­rior Ethos and human per­se­ver­ance, said Army Col. Gre­go­ry L. Daniels, the chief of the academy’s phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion depart­ment.

“These out­stand­ing sol­diers are a tes­ta­ment to the amaz­ing pow­er of the human spir­it,” Daniels said of the wound­ed war­riors. “They make no excus­es for their so-called dis­abil­i­ties, and they dri­ve on with an indomitable grit that is tru­ly remark­able. Every sin­gle cadet should take notice and emu­late their invin­ci­ble spir­it.”

For that rea­son, Daniels made sure cadets were present for this event. Hayes Gym­na­si­um roared with the encour­ag­ing cheers of cadets as the wound­ed war­riors moved through the timed course.

“I want­ed the cadets to cheer them on with all their might and to be inspired by what they observed,” Daniels said. “These sol­diers demon­strat­ed the War­rior Ethos in a very unique and pow­er­ful way. I want­ed as many cadets as pos­si­ble to see first-hand the type of young per­son they will even­tu­al­ly have the immense respon­si­bil­i­ty and awe­some priv­i­lege to lead.”

Cadets lined up to con­grat­u­late and speak with the group after the test. Cadet Brit­tany O’Connell said she left with a lump in her throat from what she’d wit­nessed.

“It made me real­ize that even with things as hec­tic as they are here, your prob­lems may not be as big as you think they are,” she said. “It was tru­ly amaz­ing.”

When Daniels told the cadets to remem­ber this event the next time they com­plained about some­thing being too hard, Cadet Tom Snukis took it to heart.

“It was def­i­nite­ly inspir­ing, because you see cadets strug­gle through this every day,” said Snukis, who will take the course for score in Octo­ber. “Then to come out here and see sol­diers miss­ing arms and legs, and they destroyed the [course]. ‘Inspir­ing’ is def­i­nite­ly the word.”

As the sole Marine and only dou­ble amputee in the group, Lance Cpl. Joshua Wege said he had even more to prove than his col­leagues. He was not expect­ing such a large audi­ence, he said, but it fueled his per­for­mance with an added dose of adren­a­line.

“The entire bleach­ers were filled, and just the sound rever­ber­at­ing off the walls was cool,” Wege said. “I’ve nev­er had crowds cheer me before. I was ner­vous at the start­ing line, which I don’t get very often, but with every­one watch­ing and the blood pump­ing, I want­ed to do the best I could.”

Army Spc. Matthew Kin­sey said the group of wound­ed war­riors is pret­ty close-knit, and it was evi­dent in the way, as pro­fes­sion­al sol­diers, they sup­port­ed each oth­er. They’d been prac­tic­ing for a few weeks on a small­er course at Wal­ter Reed, Kin­sey said, but the West Point course was exhaust­ing.

“At half-speed, the indi­vid­ual obsta­cles are not bad, but when you go through every­thing at once, that’s a chal­lenge,” Kin­sey said.

Along with Wege and Kin­sey, Army Sgt. Robert Brown, Army Pvt. Har­ri­son Ruz­ic­ka, Army Spc. Joshua Rec­tor, Army Spc. Nicholas Edinger and Army Sgt. Shane Bald­win also par­tic­i­pat­ed.

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

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