Warrior Games 2014: Triumph of Ability over Disability

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By Laura Fonda Hochnadel
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amputee runner

Above: Photograph by Heather Swanson. Below: Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carlton, left, takes a shot during a wheelchair basketball game between the SOCOM and Marine Corps teams. Photograph by Staff Sgt. Devon Suits, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

Dan Carlton

Five-and-a-half years ago, three individuals had a vision to create a competition to enhance awareness about the impact and need for more sport programming for injured service members around the United States, and over a beer they conceptualized the Warrior Games on a napkin. Charlie Huebner, vice president of the Paralympic development for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation, related this account of the Games' inception to the more than 2,000 attendees at the 2014 Games' opening ceremony, which was held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, September 28.

Now in its fifth year, 200 wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans-40 each from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy/Coast Guard, and Special Operations Command (SOCOM)-came to compete in the week-long event. In order to qualify for the Games' teams, athletes participated in camps, clinics, and trials for their respective service teams throughout the prior year. The competition schedule included sitting volleyball, cycling, wheelchair basketball, swimming, archery, track and field, and shooting.

SOCOM Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carlton, a Purple Heart recipient, was competing in his first Warrior Games. He has a left transfemoral amputation and wears an Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis (IDEO) on his right leg due to injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan in November 2012. He credits some of his ability to return to sport to his IDEO because it allows him to run. He competed in track and field, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball.

"To see other athletes who have overcome their injuries and excel is truly remarkable," he said about participating in the Games. "To see other athletes who are amputees, visually impaired, paralyzed, and others who have injuries that are not visible makes me work harder to strive for excellence and push myself further every day. I'm glad to be a part of the Warrior Games and represent what it stands for. It symbolizes the dedication, determination, and never-quit attitude of what a warrior is. I hope that other people who are dealing with a traumatic injury see what the Warrior Games stands for and they see that there is hope for their future and that nothing is impossible."

This year, Team Army put a halt to Team Marines' four-year Champion Cup winning streak; the award goes to the top performing service branch in the Warrior Games. Team Army scored 71 total medals: 23 gold, 27 silver, and 21 bronze. Team Marines was the next closest competitor with 54 medals: 25 gold, 14 silver, and 15 bronze. Team Air Force ranked third in the medal standings with 48: 16 gold, 16 silver, and 16 bronze. The cup was presented during halftime at the Air Force-Navy football game held Saturday, October 4, at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Air Force athlete Leonard Anderson checks the position of his equipment during the shooting competition. Photograph by Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force. 2) U.S. Marine Corps Private First Class Erik Webb races to the finish line. Photograph by Cpl. Ashton C. Buckingham, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps. 3) Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presents the Chairman's Cup trophy to Team Army captain Frank Barroqueiro during the Warrior Games tailgate celebration. Photograph by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense. 4) Photograph by Heather Swanson.

No football game is complete without a tailgate party, and this one was no exception. The Adaptive Warrior Tailgate party hosted 700-1,000 wounded warriors, family members, and guests. Top defense officials were in attendance as well. Admiral James A. Winfield Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff lauded the competitors during his remarks at the party: "There are two triumphs that each of our warriors has achieved along this journey," he said. "One of them, of course, is mastery of the sport or sports in which they competed in these games. And that alone is a triumph in itself. But we also know the triumph each one of them has achieved of ability over disability. And that is what impresses and inspires all of us so much."

Dates for the 2015 Warrior Games have not been set.