WASHINGTON - In the military, everything becomes a competition. Take the Army-Navy football game, for example. That's not your average battle on the gridiron.
Now active-duty members from various branches of the U.S. military will have something else to compete for: The Chairman's Cup, the prize which will be awarded at the inaugural Warrior Games, an Olympic-style event which will be held in May.
The Warrior Games are designed for military members who have suffered injuries as way for them to get involved in sports. At a news conference Thursday at the Pentagon, organizers announced the Warrior Games will take place at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"Our service members continually rise to the occasion both in the call of duty and in their efforts to recover from serious injury," said Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commanding general of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command. "The Warrior Games will provide a unique challenge for those who wish to learn more about adaptive sports and compete at a national level."
Two hundred injured service men and women are expected to compete in the Warrior Games May 10-14, taking to swimming pools, shooting and archery ranges, volleyball, track and basketball courts in hopes of earning the Chairman's Cup award for their military branch.
Warrior Games organizers from the Department of Defense and the U.S. Olympic Committee said injured service men and women from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard already are gearing up for the partly competitive, partly therapeutic Olympic-style event.
"Everything's a competition in the military," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Judith Mae Boyce, a recreational archer recovering from brain disease.
She hopes to represent the Navy in archery, discus or shot put, though concentration and memory problems could make competing difficult.
"It'll be fun; it'll be a new challenge," Boyce said of the competition.
More than 9,000 service members with upper body, lower body and spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder are eligible to participate in the Games. Not all will be selected to participate and not all will be interested in participating or earn medical clearance to participate, Cheek said.
Competitors, drawn proportionately from each branch of service, will be selected through an application, nomination and recruitment process to take place this month. While some participants may already be competitive athletes, others will be trying out new sports for the first time, or learning to adapt a familiar sport to their new physical disability.
Organizers said the Warrior Games, by providing athletic focus through competition, will facilitate injured service members' rehabilitation and provide athletic mentors who have found ways of coping with similar disabilities.
But in competing in such events as shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus and shot put, training through disability will be only a part of the battle for injured servicemen and woman. They also will have to travel to the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, Colo., a hurdle for those traveling for the first time since being injured.
Nearly all participants will be overcoming concentration, memory ormobility limitations. And then there is the altitude change to the OTC's 6,035 feet above sea level.
"They'll be finding a new way to navigate," said John Register, Associate Director of Community and Military Programs, U.S. Paralympics, and a two-time Paralympian. "They're going to push themselves and discover what limitations they have."
Warrior Games hopeful Michael Kyle Morgan, a Marine Corps Corporal, knows the Games would test his abilities. A post-deployment mugging in Washington left him with a traumatic brain injury and, eventually, complete paralysis. Although Morgan has regained much of his mobility, he remains weak and unable to perform the athletic workouts he once considered basic.
"Before I got hurt I loved working out,'' he said. "Now I can barely do one push-up.''
Although he dreams of competing in track and field events, he's turned his sights to shooting, which will require less muscular endurance. But chances are he could be a powerful competitor: He was the designated marksman for his platoon in the Diyala province in Iraq.
"There's not a lot I can do, other than the shooting," Morgan said. "But I'll still try. I'll do anything."
Cheek said while the inaugural program is only open to active duty military men and women, at future games U.S. veterans and members of militaries working with the U.S. abroad may be invited to participate. The cost of the five-day event and surrounding training and activities is $350,000, funded primarily through the Deptartment of Defense and the U.S. Olympic Committee, with financial support from private donors and sponsors, said Charlie Huebner, Chief of Paralympics, U.S. Olympic Committee.
While the Warrior Games will not serve as a qualifying competition for Paralympic events, organizers hope that participating athletes will consider continuing their training and aiming for a place on the U.S. Paralympic Team.
"We want all our nation's wounded warriors to strive to test new limits and achieve new goals as they demonstrate the power of ability over disability," Cheek said.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Laura Norton is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.