Opening Ceremony Inspires Athletes and Crowd

By Sarah Greer, WTC Stratcom

The inaugural Warrior Games opening ceremony, Colorado Springs, CO, May 10, 2010.

The inaugural Warrior Games opening ceremony, Colorado Springs, CO, May 10, 2010.

I had the honor of attending the Opening Ceremonies of the inaugural Warrior Games. This may be one of the most memorable, inspiring evenings of my life, and I know those around me felt the same way.

“This feels like the Olympics because it is like the Olympics,” BG Gary Cheek, Commander of the Warrior Transition Command, told the Army team before the event. “You’re athletes—you’re here to compete and to win.”

Standing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center was incredible—if you listened closely, you could hear many of the 1,500 spectators talk about the Olympians and Paralympians that had inspired them through the decades—track and field champions, hockey teams, swimmers, figure skaters, and so many others. Everywhere you walk on this campus, you see the names and images of many of America’s greatest athletes.

Each of the teams marched down the Olympic Pathway, followed by one torchbearer from each of the services. The Army led, and the Coast Guard representative handed off the flame to retired football star Roger Staubach, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, who lit the Warrior Games cauldron. As the cauldron erupted in flames, the crowd and athletes chanted, “USA! USA! USA!” with contagious enthusiasm.

The speakers emphasized that, just like all services come together to defend America’s freedom, this week, all services are competing as Team USA. At the end of the week, the medal count, Ultimate Champion, and Commander’s Cup don’t matter as much as the patriotism and can-do attitude.

The athletes competing this week really belong here—they’re such dynamic, resilient, and incredible people. As they marched down the Olympic Pathway, no one saw disabilities—instead, we all noticed the pride, the determination of these Americans who have sacrificed so much for our country. Beyond the friendly rivalry between services, there was a deeper bond; they understand the rewards of overcoming impossible odds.

Community Support is Critical

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

The Warrior Games are about to start and I can’t wait to see our athletes, especially our Army athletes, compete. While most of the attention will be focused on these athletes, and rightfully so, I don’t want to overlook a key component of the Warrior Games—community support.

I encourage everyone in the Colorado Springs area to come out, watch the Warrior Games, and get to know the athletes. Behind every athlete is an inspiring story and there will be lots of great competition to see. If you can’t be here, follow all the action on the U.S. Paralympics website.

We would not be able to have the Warrior Games without the outstanding support we’ve received from the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Colorado Springs community as a whole. Thank you to all who have helped and will help with the Warrior Games.

I would also invite you to learn more about how, through our Community Support Network, local communities like Colorado Springs can help support our wounded warriors all across the country. The AW2 Community Support Network exists to connect the Army’s most severely wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families with caring organizations that can help them transition to life post-injury. I encourage you to visit the website and discover all the ways you can help a wounded warrior.

Walter Reed Athletes Head to Warrior Games

By Sarah Greer, WTC Stratcom

I’m so excited about the Warrior Games next week! I headed out to Colorado Springs yesterday, and there was a great surprise waiting for me at the DFW Airport as I waited for my connecting flight.

I noticed several men and women with Army Strong shirts and digi-print backpacks. Not unusual, I know—I often see uniformed military personnel in airports. But several people in this group also had prosthetics and were waiting for the Colorado Springs flight. Something told me they were headed to the Warrior Games.

Now, I’m usually a very well-mannered person, almost to a fault. But yesterday, my curiosity got the better of me, and I couldn’t help myself.

“Are you going to the Warrior Games?” I bluntly asked one of the Soldiers with as much charm as I could muster.

“I sure am,” grinned SSG Jessie White, who will be competing in archery and shot put. “There are about 14 of us on the way out from Walter Reed to adjust to the Colorado Springs altitude. We’ve got to be in great condition for the Games.”

As I’d watched these athletes mill about the DFW terminal, grabbing snacks and bottles of water, shaking off the soreness from sitting on a three-hour flight, I saw that a lot of other passengers noticed them too. I could see the pride and gratitude in these people’s faces, the appreciation for the sacrifices these—and all AW2 Soldiers and Veterans—have made in defense of our freedom.

For me, this was a great start to the Warrior Games experience—the event will be an inspiring example of the warrior strength residing deep inside every Soldier in the U.S. Army. If the enthusiasm demonstrated by the Walter Reed group is an indication of the whole Army team, Army will make a strong showing next week!

Check back to the AW2 Blog throughout the Warrior Games for an inside look at the athletes and action. The WTC Stratcom team will be on the ground and blogging all week. You can also follow BG Gary Cheek, Warrior Transition Command Commander, as he blogs about his Warrior Games experience as well.

Wounded Warriors from Walter Reed Ready to Fight For the Title of ‘Ultimate Warrior’

SGT Rob Brown practicing shot put

SGT Rob Brown practicing shot put

By Jim Wenzel, WTC Stratcom

 

SGT Robert “Rob” Laux and SGT Robert “Rob” Brown may be recuperating and healing from injuries they sustained in combat, but that won’t stop them from returning to battle with wounded warriors from the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard at the 1st Annual Warrior Games to be held at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, CO, on May 10–14, 2010.

SGT Laux and SGT Brown have chosen to compete in the “Ultimate Warrior”, a pentathlon consisting of two track events, 50 meter free swim, 10 meter air rifle, and shot put. Even though both will be competing for the Army team, the joking and conversation at shot and discus training Tuesday, April 20, demonstrated a fierce competitiveness that comes with the understanding that only one soldier, sailor, airman, or marine can be the Ultimate Warrior.

SGT Laux and SGT Brown’s training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center will soon wind down as competitors leave for the OTC on May 5, and begin the final stage of preparation at the far more demanding height of 7,000 feet above sea level. In the Walter Reed auditorium that afternoon, the athletes were reminded of the harsh role altitude will play by Charlie Hubner, Chief of Paralympics, U.S. Olympic Committee and leader of a delegation of Olympians and Paralympians from Beijing and Vancouver Games.

During the USOC presentation, the Warrior Games athletes previewed “Warrior Champions”, a movie about the inspiring story of four wounded Iraq war Veterans who overcame their injuries to compete at the 2008 Summer and 2010 Winter Paralympic Games. Melissa Stockwell, a U.S. Paralympic Team swimmer, and Heath Calhoun, a world-class U.S. Paralympic Team skier, also spoke about the power of healing through sports and their journey from rehabilitation at Walter Reed to the Olympic stage.

Heath, who was chosen to carry the U.S. flag at the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies, said during difficult periods of recovery, “50% of getting there is taking the first step.”

These powerful words of encouragement from former Soldiers who suffered combat-related injuries requiring the loss of one or both legs and went on to realize their dreams of Olympic competition could not have come at a better time for these Warrior Games athletes. Perhaps the Games will lead some of them down a similar path to the London Paralympic Games of 2012 or inspire them to achieve other life goals inside or outside of the sporting arena. Certainly for SGT Laux and SGT Brown it has steeled their resolve to become the Warrior Games 2010 Ultimate Warrior.

Warriors in Athletic Competition

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

I recently had a chance to sit down with The Pentagon Channel and talk about Warrior Games (click here to read the interview). Over the last few weeks I’ve been visiting our Warrior Games athletes around the country to get their feedback on the Warrior Games. The feedback from Army athletes has been very positive and I have come away with the knowledge that these men and women are both inspired by the upcoming competition and serve as inspiration to other Soldiers. The Warrior Games is a great and challenging athletic event. The Warrior Games is about your abilities, not your disabilities. May the best athletes win!

Let the Games Begin – Shooters Train for Warrior Games

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

With much planning for Warrior Games behind us, I’m excited to now see the event begin to come to life with athletes focusing on training for their event. The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Ft. Benning hosted wounded Soldiers from around the Army. The three-day training event allowed Warrior Game participants to learn from the military’s best shooters.

Read more about the marksmanship training and the wounded athletes who participated in the event in the online article at http://www.ammoland.com/2010/04/05/wounded-warrior-shooters/.

Good luck in your continued preparation! See you at the Games in Colorado May 10-14.

Hot Off the Presses – ‘The Journey’

By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom

AW2’s print newsletter The Journey, Winter 2010, was mailed out to AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, Families, and staff recently.

This quarter’s issue includes:

  • 2010 AW2 Symposium: Tell the Army What You Really Think!
  • The Inaugural Warrior Games
  • Warrior Transition Command Launched New Web Site and Blog
  • 2010 AW2 Annual Training
  • AW2 Soldier Population at a Glance
  • Career Building Opportunity Signed by Army and Navy
  • Welcome AW2’s New Sergeant Major – SGM Robert Gallagher
  • There is No ‘Impossible’
  • AW2 Soldier Takes Command

The Journey highlights events, information, and news for the quarter and spotlights AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families. The Journey, Winter 2010, is also available online at http://www.aw2.army.mil/assets/documents/Journey_Winter2010_FINAL.pdf. Please visit the AW2 Web site at http://www.aw2.army.mil/news/news.html to read all The Journey volumes.

The Journey, Winter 2010

The Journey, Winter 2010

Warrior Games Interview

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

On Friday, I participated in a radio interview with As It Happens, on CBC Radio – Canada. We discussed the upcoming Warrior Games and the importance of being active for all wounded warriors.

In the interview, I stressed the incredible power of sports for recovering warriors and the personal rewards you get from doing something very difficult. So many WTs have told me that accomplishing something that seems impossible restores and amplifies their self-image and gives them the confidence to make things happen.

I see the Warrior Games as a way of challenging wounded warriors of all services to fulfill their abilities. The experience may be a little different than what they did before, but they can still enjoy the rigors and excitement of competition.

You can listen to the interview podcast here, and just scroll down to the March 19 podcast. Good luck to all wounded warriors training for the Warrior Games.

U.S. Paralympian John Register Inspires WTC Staff and Cadre

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

(L-R) U.S. Paralympian and Army Veteran John Register and BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander, addressed WTC staff and cadre at the WTC Winter Conference.

(L-R) U.S. Paralympian and Army Veteran John Register and BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander, addressed WTC staff and cadre at the WTC Winter Conference.

Yesterday, U.S. Paralympian and Army Veteran John Register addressed more than 400 WTC staff and cadre gathered for the WTC Winter Conference. John, who now works for the U.S. Olympic Committee, shared his personal story—in 1994, he was an elite-level athlete training for the 1996 Olympic Games when he fell in training and suffered multiple injuries: a hyper-extended knee, broken leg, and shredded artery. Because of the artery injury, John’s doctors offered him two choices: use a wheel-chair or walker for the rest of his life, or amputate the leg.

John focused on his abilities and his goals, and wasted no time getting back in shape. In the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, he competed in swimming, but was most inspired by amputees competing in track and field—his sport. He realized he could do that too, and in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, John won a silver medal in the long jump.

John’s story is an example for all wounded warriors. When confronted with a life-altering situation, John’s attention turned to what he could do and to setting the goals it would take to get him to the next stage. John wanted to compete in the U.S. Olympic Games, and he wanted to continue actively living his life. By setting and achieving small goals, such as perfecting his stride and shaving seconds off his time, John worked incrementally to achieve his larger goal. Not only did he achieve the goal of competing in the Olympics, he won a silver medal.

“When you are injured, you need to accept and embrace the things that are out of your control and open your boundaries,” Register told the crowd. “Injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members have had everything stripped away from them, yet they have the intestinal fortitude to get it back. That’s the inspirational power of sports.”

Most wounded warriors stand to benefit tremendously from adaptive sports, activities that help them embrace their abilities. I encourage all Warriors in Transition (WT) to talk to their squad leader about adaptive sports opportunities in their area and to challenge their boundaries on the athletic field.

All WTC staff and cadre are excited about the upcoming Warrior Games on May 10-15 at the U.S. Olympic Facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. One hundred Soldiers will compete against 100 Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in nine events. These warrior athletes are all currently actively training, meeting their incremental goals and inspiring other WTs in their units.

Announcing the Inaugural Warrior Games

By BG Gary Cheek, WTC Commander

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, right, commanding general, U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command, announces the inagural Warrior Games at a Pentagon press conference, Jan. 7, 2010. (DoD photo by R. D. Ward)

BG Gary Cheek announces the inaugural Warrior Games at a Pentagon press conference, Jan. 7, 2010. (DoD photo by R. D. Ward)

Yesterday, I was proud to join Charlie Huebner, Chief of Paralympics from the U.S. Olympic Committee to announce the inaugural Warrior Games at the Pentagon. On May 10 – 14, wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen will battle at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Warrior Games will host 200 wounded warrior athletes to compete in the following events:

  • Archery
  • Cycling
  • Discus
  • Shooting
  • Shot put
  • Sitting Volleyball
  • Swimming
  • Track
  • Wheelchair Basketball
  • Ultimate Warrior Competition (pentathlon format)

At the press conference, I met SGT Juan Alcivar, who has been working toward recovery at Walter Reed. SGT Alcivar competed in sports for most of his life, and he is applying to compete in the Warrior Games in sitting volleyball, shot put and discus, and cycling.

SGT Alcivar told members of my team, “Staying in the Army is my biggest goal right now, and training for the Warrior Games will help me get in shape for my PT test. My squad leader is very supportive of things like this that help me to move forward with my life. Plus, I’m excited for the chance to beat a couple of my Marine buddies from physical therapy.”

I was so inspired listening to two-time Paralympian and Army Veteran John Register who stated:

“I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free.” When I was a soldier, I was a part of an elite group called the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. It’s a program that allows a service member to train three to four years prior to an Olympic or Paralympic Games. I’d just graduated the University of Arkansas, where I was a four-time All-American there. And not only did the Army allow me to pursue my athletic careers, it also allowed me to pursue my military careers. I fell in love with the Army. I loved the discipline of it.

He closed his remarks by telling reporters, “These athletes are the angels in the marble. Through the support of the Department of Defense, the USOC and the Paralympic branch, and other partners, sports will be the chisel to set them free.”

I encourage all Wounded Warriors to strive to test new limits and achieve new goals as they demonstrate the power of ability over disability. Our servicemembers continually rise to the occasion both in the call to duty and in their efforts to recover from serious injury. The Warrior Games will provide a unique challenge for those who wish to learn more about Paralympic sports and compete at a national level.

Wounded Soldiers interested in competing in the Warrior Games should contact their squad leader for more information about the nomination process at their WTU.

Good luck to SGT Alcivar and all wounded warriors training for the Warrior Games. I look forward to the competition in May.

You can watch video of yesterday’s press conference at the PentagonChannel.mil and read the transcript on Defense.gov.

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