By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander
Wow. I have never been more proud to be a Soldier in the United States Army than I am after watching the Army compete this week. The Army Warrior Games team has turned in performances that make all of us proud to wear the uniform, and today was no exception.
I’ve had a blast all week and have made it a point to get to every event, and I want you to understand just how much excitement we’ve all experienced:
- Monday: At the Opening Ceremony, the 220 athletes from all the services and the British armed forces marched across the Olympic Training Center with pride. Their heads were up, shoulders back, all proud to wear the colors of their service branch. Proud of what they’ve given our country, and what they’ve accomplished personally since they became wounded, ill, and injured. Mrs. Michelle Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Martin E. Dempsey, helped America see how important this event is, and how much wounded, ill, and injured warriors can accomplish. AW2 Veteran Melissa Stockwell, who competed for the United States in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, lit the torch and reminded all the athletes competing–and all wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers throughout the country–how much is still possible even after injury. GEN Lloyd J. Austin III, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and LTG Patricia Horoho, Army Surgeon General, both met with the Army team and attended the opening reception.
- Tuesday: The Army women swept the podium at cycling and CPT Bill Longwell brought home gold for the men. Seeing the elation on CPT Longwell’s face when he crossed the finish line and the Army spirit in Veterans Tanya Anderson, Margaux Vair, and 1LT Lacey Hamilton posing with their medals, I knew we were in for a great week. And we made a strong start in sitting volleyball. The Honorable John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, kicked off the cycling competition and presented medals to the cycling winners.
- Wednesday: Army swept the silvers in all four archery categories. SGT Fred Prince and Veteran Kinga Kiss-Johnson took home individual silvers, and we won the “team” silvers in both the recurve and compound categories. And if that wasn’t enough, Coach Steve Coleman had promised the team that if they did well, they could shave his very bushy beard and hair. He looks 20 years younger without it. And later that night, Army was on top of our game in sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. You should hear the crowd in the gym for both these sports – you can barely hear yourself think. Between the cowbells and airhorns and cheering fans, the athletes from all the services know how much they’re supported. And there was more – the PA system couldn’t get the British national anthem to play before their exhibition sitting volleyball game, so the team belted the lyrics with incredible sense of country.SMA Raymond F. Chandler III, Sergeant Major of the Army, visited with the Army team and cheered them on throughout Wednesday and Thursday.
- Thursday: We brought home three medals in shooting: SGT Fred Prince and Veterans Justin Miller and Ben Trescott. The Army Marksmanship Unit came out to help our athletes train, and they were instrumental in helping the Soldiers prepare. Thursday evening, Army qualified for the gold medal game in both sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. We won gold in wheelchair basketball last year and silver in sitting volleyball, and members of both teams told me that they were hungry to take home gold.
- Friday: What an exciting day. At the track, we sang the Army song over and over, as so many of our athletes won gold. In his third Warrior Games appearance, Robbie Gaupp brought home two gold—in the 100m and 200m, and now he’s talking about qualifying for the Paralympic Games in London. Kinga Kiss-Johnson, Anthony Pone, Monica Southall, and Juan Soto all won gold in different categories of shot put, and they all made it look easy. Then Friday night, we dominated the Marines in sitting basketball and wheelchair basketball, bringing home gold in both team sports. I could barely sit down during either game, I was cheering so hard and so excited for our teams. GEN Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, was out at the track cheering on Army athletes and presented track and field medals.
- Saturday: Army wrapped up the week with a strong showing in swimming. There were some incredible performances from all the services. WTC’s own LTC Danny Dudek, author of the new Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) policy and procedures, won gold in his race by more than a minute.
All in all, Army took home 62 medals: 18 gold, 19 silver, and 25 bronze. Congratulations to all of the Army athletes on turning in a series of outstanding performances, and to all of the competitors here this week from all branches, including the members of the British armed forces who competed.
And to all wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans who want to compete at the 2013 Warrior Games, we’ll let you know in the next few months about the training clinics and selection process. I encourage you to continue to incorporate adaptive sports and reconditioning into your every day recovery and ongoing physical fitness routines, and I look forward to seeing the Army deliver another outstanding performance next year.