WEST POINT—The 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games got off to a rousing start on June 15 with talk show host and comedian John Stewart and other dignitaries at West Point. The Warrior Games come out of the adaptive sports and athletic reconditioning programs used for the recovery and reintegration of wounded service members and vets.
Teams representing all the armed forces—Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and SOCOM (U.S. Special Operation Command)—as well as an exuberant contingent from the British Armed Forces, competed in several adaptive sports.
The opening ceremonies went off with military precision. To start the evening, the West Point parachute team performed several jumps from 6,000 feet to a precise target on the ground.
As master of ceremonies, Stewart joked that he probably looked like a snow monkey with the sun shining on his white shirt and white hair.
He did not joke about the honor it was to host the games. “I didn’t come up here to support these athletes. The support that I get from them so far outstrips anything that I can offer that it’s humbling,” he said.
He called last week difficult for “Team Civilization.” He looked to the country’s wounded warriors to be examples of tenacity, resilience, and perseverance in the face of challenging times.
Stewart said this was the sports competition that ESPN should be covering. “This is where the cameras should be.”
He spoke directly to the competitors: “I humbly say to you, ‘You are the best of us.'”
The competitors from each section of the military were prepared to demonstrate their skills. Danielle Hampson-Carroll, former gunner in the Royal Artillery of the British Army, said she competed in sitting volleyball, seated shot put and discus, cycling, swimming, and “hopefully basketball.”
Injured five years ago, she said training for the competition helped her to “learn new skills and how to take part in more adaptive sports.”
Navy airman Chance Field competed in wheelchair basketball and wheelchair racing. He says sports are important in recovery. “They give you the ability to set goals and focus on things other than what you are going through at the time of your injury,” he said.
Jaimie Baltazar coached Marine Corps warriors for wheelchair basketball as a civilian. Army Sergeant Blake Johnson, retired, was injured in an accident in Germany. He competed in cycling, swimming, sitting shot put, seated discus, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair basketball.”
Lt. Gen. Robert Caslan, Jr. Superintendent at West Point, welcomed competitors to the U.S. Military Academy.
Undersecretary of the Army Patrick Murphy, retired Gen. Frederick Franks, Jr., Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Flo Grover, Capt Kelly Olinger, and retired Sgt 1st class Howard Sanborn also graced the dais. Stewart was accompanied by his son Nate.
In its six-year history, this was the first time the games were hosted by the Army. The DoD Warrior Games of 2016 featured eight sporting events: archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball in a paralympic-style competition.
The games concluded on June 21 with about 200 athletes who competed, according to the DoD website. Each military service hosts trials in the months leading up to the games to determine their teams.
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