Soldiers First, Athletes Second

Fort Carson, Colo  – U.S. Army Soldiers train during track and field practice May 2013 in preparation for the 2013 Warrior Games. Since 2010 the Warrior Games have brought together wounded, ill or injured service members to compete. This year, the Warrior Games will include wounded warriors from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt Yves-Marie Daley, 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Fort Carson, Colo – U.S. Army Soldiers train during track and field practice May 2013 in preparation for the 2013 Warrior Games. Since 2010 the Warrior Games have brought together wounded, ill or injured service members to compete. This year, the Warrior Games will include wounded warriors from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt Yves-Marie Daley, 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Warrior Transition Command Chaplain, Maj. Ken Godwin
The night before the opening ceremony at the 2013 Warrior Games I had the opportunity to speak to the Army team to provide some spiritual insight and perhaps motivate the athletes to great heights in this year’s competition. What to say? It was not my job to give a typical sports “pep talk.” It was my job as I understand it to remind these warriors and athletes of the importance of their whole person. That they are more than just bodies who can perform great feats on the athletic field or court.

I began by focusing these competitors on the Soldier side of things. After all, they are Soldiers first. The reason they are involved in this competition in the first place is because they are either active duty Soldiers or Army Veterans. I reminded them of a quote from General George Marshal that the Soldier’s spirit and soul is the thing that sustains him. I wanted these Soldiers to know that it’s not just their chaplain reminding them of the importance of their spirits when it comes to their soldierly duties. I also think it’s important that they see that spirituality and the Soldier is a very real part of our history as an Army.

The second part of my talk focused on athletics and spirituality. For a great historical example of religion and sports I offered them a quote from 1924 Scottish gold medal runner Eric Liddel. Liddel was the son of Christian missionaries whose faith was a huge part of his success as a runner and who was immortalized in the movie Chariots of Fire. Liddel is attributed as saying “God made me for a purpose but He also made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.” I reminded these warrior athletes that although they have individual purposes in life as parents, Soldiers,  and friends — for this week and this week alone, their God given purpose is to compete at their best. When they do that, God is pleased.

As I write this post we are only two days into the competition. How it shakes out remains to be seen. But I look forward to seeing how well our Army Warrior Games team does and whether they take the Chairman’s Cup from the Marines. I’m hoping for victory on the field of competition as are they. But most of all I hope that these Soldiers will see their purpose fulfilled this week. I’m praying that they come to understand that God will be pleased win or lose if they find their purpose in Him.

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