By SSG Tracy J. Smith, Fort Stewart Warrior Transition Unit
Mrs. Michelle Obama led the opening ceremony for the third annual Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center on April 30.
The Warrior Games is comprised of seven sports; archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball. More than 200 wounded, ill, or injured servicemembers from each branch of service and the U.S. Special Operations Command are competing. The games began with the opening ceremony and continue until May 5.
The ceremony celebrated the resilience of our nation’s wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, active duty, reservists, guardsmen, and Veterans from all branches of military service. This year for the first time, our British allies brought 20-members to compete in exhibition games.
Mrs. Obama and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Martin E. Dempsey, applauded the competitors for their courage and for being inspirations.
“Every competitor here has faced adversity that most of us can never imagine,” Mrs. Obama said. “No matter how seriously you are injured, no matter what obstacles or setbacks you face, you just keep moving forward.”
Dempsey commended the service men and women for not succumbing to perceived disabilities.
“For me, these games embody the enduring resilience of our profession,” said Dempsey. “Your commitment to teamwork, and dedication to persevere at these games are the very same qualities that led you to serve our nation. Those qualities don’t go away.”
Captain Simon Maxwell of the British Royal Marines and retired Army 1LT Melissa Stockwell shared the honor as torchbearers for the opening ceremony. She was the first female Soldier to lose a limb in Iraq. Stockwell was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for the loss of her leg in 2004 by an insurgent’s bomb. Maxwell was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan in April 2011 where he served as a troop commander with Company L. He was wounded in August 2011, while on patrol resulting in the loss of his left leg below the knee.
Both adamantly profess finding a renewed sense of purpose because of their experiences. Stockwell uncovered her Olympian spirit during her rehabilitation at Walter Reed and represented her country in a different uniform during the 2008 Beijing Paralympics swim competition.
Other key speakers on hand to open the ceremony were Scott Blackmun, the U.S. Olympic Committee CEO, and Robin Lineberger, the Deloitte Federal Systems CEO.
The ceremony ended with the playing of each service song and a VIP reception for the athletes and Family members at the Olympic Training Center.
All of the athletic events are being held at the U.S. Air Force Academy, with the exception of shooting, which will take place at the training center.