The All-Marine Warrior Games Team training camp kicked off with a dinner for athletes and staff April 27, at the Colorado Inn. The team, guests and staff celebrated the beginning of the training, as well as the mark of a new tradition when the games commence May 10 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
The inaugural sports competition is a joint effort by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Department of Defense. The competition includes active duty wounded from each branch of service totaling roughly two hundred athletes.
The event is part of the year-old Wounded Warrior Regiment athletic reconditioning program, said Lt. Col. Benjamin Hermantin, Warrior Games officer-in-charge, WWR. The games should help the program’s progression as well as perpetuate wounded warriors care and treatment.
“We see this as a little different,” he explained. “It’s like a natural extension of being a Marine. We’re just looking to improve another level of training for them. We take care of our Marines.”
Hermantin said the across-the-board support he received from numerous units including the United States Northern Command, and considerable donations from various organizations, allowed the Marines the opportunity to acclimatize and train before opening day.
“I have a lot of confidence in our Marines,” he added. “They’re seeing tons of support from the community – not because of their injuries, but because they’re Marines. They’re stoked.”
One of the biggest outcomes from Paralympics competitions and disabled athletic events is the significant progress athletes witness in more than just their sport, but every aspect of life, said Charlie Huebner, Chief of Paralympics, U.S. Olympic Committee.
“We see the power of sport,” he said. “We see the power of healing through sport every single day. It just takes something simple – like playing basketball with a friend to help someone transform in their rehabilitation. To make them realize everything’s going to be ok.”
Huebner said he’s excited to see the Warrior Games come to life and to see wounded service members afforded an excellent rehabilitative opportunity.
“We had a couple of Marines in here the other day,” he said. “They were ecstatic to be in Colorado Springs. But our primary focus though is seeing that program available at the community level.
So, when a veteran returns home there are everyday programs just like they’re participating in the Warrior Games – in their hometowns and communities.”
Alicia Heili, an athletic trainer with The All-Marine Warrior Games Team said everyone is working together to get the athletes comprehensive training. Heili is an athletic trainer at The Basic School in Quantico, Va., and has worked with the University of Kansas Football Team as an athletic trainer.
“It’s definitely different,” she said. “The dedication they have - that competitiveness. They still carry that Marine pride and it shows. It’s really just such an honor to be a part of the team and the Warrior Games.”
A big part for a lot of the competitors is being back with Marines training and competing, said Lance Cpl. Chuck Sketch, a double amputee who fought brain cancer but lost his vision, now competing in the 50 and 100-meter freestyle swim.
“You lose your sight or legs, you think it’s over,” he said. “But any joker can swim from the age of seven and make their way to the Olympics. When that tragedy comes, you’re starting from ground zero – from nothing and working your way back up.
Now, that means something,” he said.
Maj. Susie Stark, head coach and operations officer with the Marine Team said this was a large step forward in the world of veterans competing on a large-scale, official capacity.
“I think it’s a groundbreaking initiative,” Stark said. “I think you’re going to see more people from around the world competing. Every country has their service member’s that have sacrificed serving their country. It’s something they all have in common.
It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of this. It’s taken a life of it’s own.”