Wounded Warriors Demonstrate Resilience at Warrior Games

BG Gary Cheek sings the Army Song with gold-medalists from the Mixed 50m Freestyle Relay.  Clockwise from left: SSG Michael Janssen, BG Gary Cheek, SFC Landon Ranker, SGT Cayle Foidel, SGT Gavin Sibayan.  Army athletes took home 29 medals in swimming.

BG Gary Cheek sings the Army Song with gold-medalists from the Mixed 50m Freestyle Relay. Clockwise from left: SSG Michael Janssen, BG Gary Cheek, SFC Landon Ranker, SGT Cayle Foidel, SGT Gavin Sibayan. Army athletes took home 29 medals in swimming.

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

What an incredible week! The athletes from all services demonstrated just how much is possible for wounded warriors. At Friday’s closing ceremonies, I sensed so many emotions from the athletes – pride, perseverance, accomplishment, and increased self-confidence.

The emotions this week ranged from elation—SGT Gavin Sibayan sweeping gold in his four swimming finals, to heartbreak—SGT Robbie Gaupp excelling in three track preliminaries, only to tear his hamstring in the last qualifier and miss his medal chances in the finals. In each athlete, we saw the true spirit of the U.S. military—people who work together as a team to do what ever it takes to meet mission.

The Warrior Games demonstrated the incredible power of sport to help wounded warriors overcome their injuries and embrace their abilities. We also saw the camaraderie across the service branches—Soldiers and Sailors sharing techniques for springing off the blocks; an Airman helping a Soldier cross the finish line as she lost her breath at the end of the race; Soldiers and Marines shaking hands under the volleyball nets.

Many of the athletes won medals, especially the Army, who finished the competition with 79 medals. Many won multiple medals, and they wore them throughout the rest of the competition—you could hear them coming a mile away.

Congratulations to all Warrior Games athletes for your accomplishments this week. I also offer special congratulations to the U.S. Marine Corps team on winning the Commanders Cup and to Sailor Daniel Hathorn on being named the Ultimate Champion. You are all incredible athletes, and I was honored to share this experience with you.

To all WTs, I encourage you to consider training and applying for the 2011 Warrior Games – there is something empowering about setting and achieving challenging goals, and I look forward to next year’s competition.

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