It was Like Watching the Super Bowl

By Patricia Sands, WTC Stratcom

The Army Warrior Games wheelchair basketball team celebrates after their win over the Marines on Tuesday.

I don’t know if anyone has told you, but there was a bit of rivalry between the Army and the Marines over the wheelchair basketball finals at last year’s Warrior Games. This is an understatement for sure. In fact, after shadowing the team this week, I realized that last night’s game was almost as important as winning the finals.

COL Greg Gadson, the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Director, knew the importance of this game and talked to the team the morning before Tuesday’s game. He spoke to them as he did to the New York Giants before their 2008 Super Bowl win. He is an inspiration in word and deed. He not only talked the talk, he walked the walk. After talking to the team, he strapped himself into a wheelchair, moved among the ranks, and played with the team during their practice. As a double amputee himself, he told me, “They are tough and play a rough game. I took a few spills.”

Later that day, Gadson again showed his support as he took an anchor position at the end of the court. He held his position the entire game. I was with him and countless people told him he had a spot in the VIP room. However, he said he was staying courtside—right there at the battlefield.

Gadson is an ultimate competitor and if you have ever seen him, he embodies the entire U.S. Army persona in a single Soldier. I can only imagine the intimidation factor the Marines felt as they whizzed by his powerful presence at the end of their side of the court. Yet, he didn’t say a word to anyone. He knew these players had their marching orders from their coaches. That said, the coaches and the team had a tough first half. It went back and forth a bit more than I liked. The tension was very high.

I can tell you of an endearing moment that I witnessed during the game. There was a missed basket. SGT Delvin Maston, one of the Army wheelchair basketball players, gritted his teeth as he rolled by Gadson. In a split second, Gadson locked eyes with the young SGT, nodded, and Maston returned the nod.  It was clear what Gadson was communicating—“Shake it off. Reset. Get going. It’s ok. Try again. I am with you.” The silence between them was very full.

Army Warrior Games wheelchair basketball player SGT Delvin Maston looks to make a pass during the team’s game against the Marines.

The coaches and the players learned their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses to maximize their positions. It was a brilliant game of high energy and strategy. Coach Garner said it was a speed game and that the Army team had to adjust many times. Their adjustments worked and the tables turned. The Army team won the game and the crowds went crazy. They rushed the players and ran onto the court to join in the celebration of their victory. With the mission complete, Gadson left the battlefield.

Gadson shows support like he did that night and more 24/7 as he directs AW2. He oversees more than 170 AW2 Advocates in the field who assist severely wounded, ill, and injured Army Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families as they recover and succeed in all phases of their lives. These AW2 Advocates provide personalized assistance for the most severely wounded, ill, and injured.

To learn more about the AW2 program please visit the AW2 website. If you are part of an organization that supports severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans, learn more about how you can continue supporting through the AW2 Community Support Network. Get involved.

 

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