By Caitlin McCarrie, WTC STRATCOM
This is my first time at the Warrior Games, and I am taking in this experience with wide eyes and enthusiasm. The Opening Ceremony at the U.S Olympic Training Center kicked off the week’s events. Before the ceremony, the athletes, coaches, and staff gathered and calmed their nerves in preparation for the week ahead.
As I looked around the room, I saw the athletes get in their zone. U.S. Army archery coach Steven Coleman looked for his team and pointed out that each competitor focuses their energy in different ways, whether it be listening to their iPod, playing cards with teammates, or talking with their coach. I could feel their energy, and it was positively invigorating.
We made our way to the Opening Ceremony, and watching the competitors from all service branches make their way through the crowd was truly inspiring. Amid the friendly banter between the services there was an overarching sense of pride and gratitude. Soldiers of all backgrounds walked the same walk. I’ve heard the phrase, “overcoming disability with ability” before, but it wasn’t until that moment when I saw these men and women walking toward the ceremony together that I really understood the power of those words.
One of the most exciting parts for me was listening to the VIP speakers, such as Mrs. Michelle Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army GEN Martin Dempsey. Watching these prominent men and women address the sea of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and Family members I felt a deep sense of gratefulness and respect. That sentiment swept over the crowd, and at that moment the crowd shared a sense of unity that I’ve never experienced before.
Mrs. Obama praised the athletes, “I get to see your strength and determination up close, and you tell me you’re not just going to walk again, but you’re going to run, and you’re going to run marathons.”
After the opening remarks, I joined the Army athletes, coaches, and staff for some words of inspiration for the week ahead. LTG Patricia Horoho, the Army Surgeon General, had some special words of encouragement for the room. “You have been through the toughest situations, and now you have to focus mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You have already shown you are capable of turning disability into ability, and this is one more step forward.” I watched as the athletes listened attentively, and I could feel their intensity and excitement.
The passion and determination in the eyes of these athletes is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Their hard work and dedication to training, whether it was in the WTC’s adaptive sports clinics throughout the year or on their own is about to pay off, and I’m excited to see the Army bring home the gold. LTG Horoho gave one last note which sums up the Army’s presence at the Warrior Games. “It’s the warriors’ ethos that will bond this team to victory.”