By BG David J. Bishop
Warrior Games 2013 is in the history books, and what a great week of competition it was for our warriors. Team Army came close to the overall goal of winning the Chairman’s Cup with their resilience, physical strength, athletic prowess and sportsmanship. Each of our Soldier-athletes inspired everyone in attendance.
For this year’s Warrior Games, our goals included:
1) Maximizing the opportunity to introduce as many wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers to adaptive reconditioning as possible. One way we accomplished this was by hosting 17 training and selection clinics throughout the year, compared to five for 2012. At these clinics, Soldiers received training in the flagship sports for the Warrior Games. Each of the 325 Soldiers who applied trained in at least three events, and this year, world class Olympic and Paralympic coaches worked with our athletes.
2) Inspiring as many wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers as possible to recognize their full potential and focus on more than just their injuries. Wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers throughout the WCTP saw our Army athletes excel at the competition. Our diverse Army team consisted of 29 Soldiers and 21 Veterans, with 22 combat wounded and 7 with behavioral health conditions. The resilience, strength and determination of these Soldier- athletes serve as a symbol of hope for many overcoming obstacles regardless of their injury or illness.
3) Fielding a great team to represent the Army in competition and enhance Army esprit de corps. This year, with more selection and training camps, we ensured a strong Army team capable of competing with the best athletes from all of the services. Our Army wheelchair basketball team dominated the court and took home the Gold for the third year in a row, and they’re just one example of the competitive outcomes our team achieved throughout the week.
4) Providing hope to every newly-wounded Soldier who returns from Afghanistan, so they can realize that their injuries are not life-ending. When Soldiers see our Army athletes or others like them, they recognize the potential for a bright and fulfilling future.
In a valiant effort to close the medal gap with the Marine Corps team, Team Army beat its 2012 medal count by 18 (81 medals this year compared to 63 in 2012). I am confident that Team Army’s example will motivate each of the other services to up their game in the future. With continued emphasis in the value of adaptive reconditioning and adaptive sports across the Warrior Care and Transition Program, including the exceptional training and selection camps the Army conducted over the past year, I also believe that Team Army athletes will continue to improve and that the Chairman’s Cup will be in Army hands in 2014.
Putting aside for a moment the obvious excitement that athletic competition provides, I would like to reflect on the much larger picture of what adaptive reconditioning and resilience training does for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers. Losing limbs, being severely burned, suffering a traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress – as life changing as these events undoubtedly can be, one thing stands out: the Army’s determination to honor its sacred commitment to take care of its men and women in uniform. Often, however, the state-of-the-art medical innovations that help save lives and help put Soldiers back together are not enough when it comes to coming to grips with the profound changes these injuries and illnesses mean for their lives.
At Warrior Games, in the clinics leading up to Warrior Games, and in talking with Warrior Transition Unit Commanders and Soldiers, I often hear a frequent and recurring theme: participating in adaptive reconditioning activities, athletics, and the life-coaching experiences of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program gives Soldiers the nudge they need to get back into living. These activities play a vital role in allowing Soldiers to unleash their unlimited potential and focus on something more than their injuries.
I urge everyone to get to know the Soldiers and Families that make up the Warrior Transition Units and the Army Wounded Warrior Program, and especially these great Warrior Games competitors. I can almost guarantee that you will come away from the experience uplifted yourself, just from the opportunity to let the infectious enthusiasm of these brave men and women rub off on you. I know I am a better person for the experience, and I am sure you will be as well.
- Wheelchair basketball – Team Army took home the Gold for the third year in a row
- Shooting – Team Army nearly tripled last year’s medal count (3 medals lasT year, 8 this year)
- Sitting volleyball – After a hard-fought effort against the Marine Corps, Team Army won the Silver medal
- Track and field – Team Army won 33 medals, including a thrilling come-from-behind effort to win Gold in the 4×100 relay
- Archery – Team Army dominated, winning 6 of 8 possible medals
- Cycling – Team Army won 9 medals overall – with our female athletes sweeping the medal stand
- Swimming– With the Warrior Transition Command’s LTC Danny Dudek leading the way with 4 Gold and 1 Silver medal, Team Army came away with a total of 13 Gold, 8 Silver, and 2 Bronze medals
Total – MEDAL COUNT: 264 medals
- Army = 81: Gold (33), Silver (26), Bronze (22)
- Marines = 92: Gold (34), Silver (33) Bronze (25)
- Navy/Coast Guard = 23: Gold (8), Silver (5) Bronze (10)
- Air Force = 30: Gold (3), Silver (10), Bronze (17)
- SOCOM = 16: Gold (5), Silver (6), Bronze (5)
- U.K. = 22: Gold (5), Silver (8), Bronze (9)
Total Medal Count – 264