By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
With the lighting of the ceremonial Olympic cauldron by NFL hall of famer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate Roger Staubach Monday, the inaugural Warrior Games got underway.
Approximately 200 disabled veterans from all five branches of military service marched down Irwin “Ike” Belk Olympic Path at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here Monday evening in the games’ opening ceremony.
“The cloth of your nation is proud of you today,” said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, at the ceremony. “The flag that you fought to represent is proud of you.”
The ceremony marks the culmination of months of training and an even longer road to recovery for many of the athletes. More than a few of the participants were restricted at one time to their hospital beds, unable to walk and get around on their own. But this week, they will display their re-learned skills in track and field, cycling, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, archery, swimming and marksmanship events.
Their resolve and desire to improve their lives is an inspiration for the nation, and is in keeping with the military community’s goal to build resilience among its members, General Renuart said. The games are a testament of the influence of sports and proof of what one can accomplish through determination and will power, noting that the games are a “significant event” for Defense Department and military leaders.
“They know how important this is, not just to you, but to our services and what we hope to promote for each and every one of our men and women serving as they go forward in their lives,” he said.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter hailed the troops as heroes and role models, calling them “the pride of America” for volunteering to serve and for their ability to triumph over adversity.
“You really are the core of who we are as a people,” Governor Ritter said. “Your resilience exemplifies the kinds of things that we would all like to believe about ourselves – that we would like our children to emulate.”
Juan M. Garcia III, the assistant Navy secretary for manpower and Reserve affairs, lauded the troops for their willingness to compete and to never give up on themselves and their nation. He also praised their readiness to accept new challenges.
“Who could not be inspired by what’s going on here?” Mr. Garcia asked. “Before us are men and women who suffered injuries both physical and mental. (But) they refuse to be defeated, no matter where their battlefields were – Afghanistan, Iraq, rehab centers or even their own minds.
“It’s old cliché saying, ‘Getting here makes you winners, no matter the results of the competition,'” Mr. Garcia continued. “But just because it’s cliché doesn’t make it less true.”
The games are a joint venture among the DoD, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the United Service Organizations to promote resilience and the healing power of sports. Officials hope to make the games an annual event and possibly expand participation and future venues.
The competition runs through today.