Opening Ceremony Inspires Athletes and Crowd

By Sarah Greer, WTC Stratcom

The inaugural Warrior Games opening ceremony, Colorado Springs, CO, May 10, 2010.

The inaugural Warrior Games opening ceremony, Colorado Springs, CO, May 10, 2010.

I had the honor of attending the Opening Ceremonies of the inaugural Warrior Games. This may be one of the most memorable, inspiring evenings of my life, and I know those around me felt the same way.

“This feels like the Olympics because it is like the Olympics,” BG Gary Cheek, Commander of the Warrior Transition Command, told the Army team before the event. “You’re athletes—you’re here to compete and to win.”

Standing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center was incredible—if you listened closely, you could hear many of the 1,500 spectators talk about the Olympians and Paralympians that had inspired them through the decades—track and field champions, hockey teams, swimmers, figure skaters, and so many others. Everywhere you walk on this campus, you see the names and images of many of America’s greatest athletes.

Each of the teams marched down the Olympic Pathway, followed by one torchbearer from each of the services. The Army led, and the Coast Guard representative handed off the flame to retired football star Roger Staubach, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, who lit the Warrior Games cauldron. As the cauldron erupted in flames, the crowd and athletes chanted, “USA! USA! USA!” with contagious enthusiasm.

The speakers emphasized that, just like all services come together to defend America’s freedom, this week, all services are competing as Team USA. At the end of the week, the medal count, Ultimate Champion, and Commander’s Cup don’t matter as much as the patriotism and can-do attitude.

The athletes competing this week really belong here—they’re such dynamic, resilient, and incredible people. As they marched down the Olympic Pathway, no one saw disabilities—instead, we all noticed the pride, the determination of these Americans who have sacrificed so much for our country. Beyond the friendly rivalry between services, there was a deeper bond; they understand the rewards of overcoming impossible odds.

AW2 Weekly Digest May 10-14

  • AW2 Veteran Joseph Briseno Jr. is featured in an Associated Press article about his Family’s dedication to taking care of him.
  • WTC Commander BG Gary Cheek was featured in a Defense News article about looking to the future of the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Veteran Jackie Christian, featured in the Beacon Journal, participated in a Pegasus Farms program that’s helps sight-impaired participants work with horses to gain independence.
  • AW2 Veteran Nick Edinger, featured in Mail Tribune, discussed how his strength and resolve helped him survive a tragic ordeal.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Brendan M. Ferreira, featured SouthCoastToday.com, discussed being upbeat during a grueling recovery.
  • AW2 Soldier SPC Noah Galloway, featured in Birmingham News, returned to the place where he lost two limbs.
  • AW2 Soldier LTC Marc Hoffmeister, featured in Military Times, won’t let injury end his career or limit his goals.
  • AW2 Soldier WO1 Johnathan Holsey, featured in Army News, discussed becoming a motivation for others and the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Soldier SFC Jacque Keeslar, featured in Los Angeles Times, discussed the healing aspect of competing in the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Soldiers SFC Jacque Keeslar and SGT Robert Price are featured in a Defense News article about the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Daniel Lopez, featured in The Virginian-Pilot, discussed training for the first Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, CO.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Michael Lukow was featured in The Gazette in an article about the Warrior Games becoming a pipeline for the Paralympics.
  • AW2 Veteran Brendan Marrocco is featured in two CBS News stories about his injury, recovery, Family, and “The American Spirit.”
  • AW2 Veteran William Mobley, featured in Public Opinion, participated in a Letterkenny turkey hunt with other wounded warriors.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Robert Price, featured in Army News, was given the honor of carrying the torch at the Warrior Games because he made sure other Soldiers had the opportunity to compete.
  • AW2 Soldier CPL Ryan Shurtleff, featured in Coastal Courier, discussed his injury, recovery, and the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Soldier SFC Justin Widhalm, featured in the Colorado Springs Gazette and KXRM-TV, discussed competing in the Warrior Games.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

AW2 Weekly Digest May 3-7

  • AW2 Soldier SSG Brian Beem, featured in Fairbanks News-Miner, is returning to Iraq and is determined to walk out of the country on his own terms.
  • AW2 Soldier MAJ Tammy Duckworth, featured in Federal News Service, spoke at the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency Asian-Pacific Heritage Month Observance.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Daniel Lopez, featured in The Daily Press, has a drive to compete that is not dulled by loss.
  • AW2 Soldiers SGT Joseph Mershon, SGT Drew McComber, SPC Craig Smith, and 1LT Mark Wise were featured in a DCMilitary.com story about their Purple Heart Ceremony at Walter Reed.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Ryan Major, featured in Times-Picayune, attended an event at the White House honoring the New York Yankees.
  • AW2 Soldier 1LT Zach Osborne, featured on WDBJ-TV, shared his story of courage and survival.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Andrew Peden, featured in The Gazette, made a surprise visit to see girlfriend and newborn daughter.
  • AW2 Soldier SPC Craig Smith, featured on DCMilitary.com, was presented a Purple Heart and is participating in the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Veteran Mark Tippett, featured in The Daily Press, discussed traumatic brain injury and his new career at the Washington Navy Yard.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Caregiver Support Signed into Law

By Jane Dulin, AW2 VA Liaison

On May 5, 2010, President Obama signed into law a bill that will be extremely beneficial to eligible AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and their Family member/caregivers. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (S.1963) will establish a permanent program to support Veteran Family members who serve as the recognized caregivers of eligible Veterans, improve health care for Veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women Veterans, and expand supportive services to homeless Veterans.

The bill’s caregiver support provisions will fulfill VA’s obligation to care for the nation’s wounded Veterans by providing designated caregivers with training, counseling, supportive services, and a living stipend. Additionally, this bill will direct the VA to reimburse attendants for travel expenses, including lodging and subsistence, incurred in connection with authorized VA treatment for Veterans as well as provide healthcare services to Family caregivers under CHAMPVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program VA).

For the full version of the bill, please visit http://veterans.senate.gov or http://www.govtrack.us/ (search S.1963).

Walter Reed Athletes Head to Warrior Games

By Sarah Greer, WTC Stratcom

I’m so excited about the Warrior Games next week! I headed out to Colorado Springs yesterday, and there was a great surprise waiting for me at the DFW Airport as I waited for my connecting flight.

I noticed several men and women with Army Strong shirts and digi-print backpacks. Not unusual, I know—I often see uniformed military personnel in airports. But several people in this group also had prosthetics and were waiting for the Colorado Springs flight. Something told me they were headed to the Warrior Games.

Now, I’m usually a very well-mannered person, almost to a fault. But yesterday, my curiosity got the better of me, and I couldn’t help myself.

“Are you going to the Warrior Games?” I bluntly asked one of the Soldiers with as much charm as I could muster.

“I sure am,” grinned SSG Jessie White, who will be competing in archery and shot put. “There are about 14 of us on the way out from Walter Reed to adjust to the Colorado Springs altitude. We’ve got to be in great condition for the Games.”

As I’d watched these athletes mill about the DFW terminal, grabbing snacks and bottles of water, shaking off the soreness from sitting on a three-hour flight, I saw that a lot of other passengers noticed them too. I could see the pride and gratitude in these people’s faces, the appreciation for the sacrifices these—and all AW2 Soldiers and Veterans—have made in defense of our freedom.

For me, this was a great start to the Warrior Games experience—the event will be an inspiring example of the warrior strength residing deep inside every Soldier in the U.S. Army. If the enthusiasm demonstrated by the Walter Reed group is an indication of the whole Army team, Army will make a strong showing next week!

Check back to the AW2 Blog throughout the Warrior Games for an inside look at the athletes and action. The WTC Stratcom team will be on the ground and blogging all week. You can also follow BG Gary Cheek, Warrior Transition Command Commander, as he blogs about his Warrior Games experience as well.

Write a blog for AW2

AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families can submit a blog for AW2 by emailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.