COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — As families filled the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels lobby in Colorado Springs, Colo., checking in and shaking hands, the atmosphere was filled with excitement and gratitude. The emotions carried into the Family Program Welcome Reception.
The reception, held Friday at the hotel, hosted families of the 260 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans competing at the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, May 11-16. The Fisher House Foundation, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Semper Fi Fund and other military supporting organizations were present to salute the people behind the Warrior Games athletes.
Wives, husbands, parents and children piled in to the reception with smiles knowing they were all there for the same reason: seeing their loved ones thrive.
“Family has a tremendous effect on the athlete and family,” said Dario Santana, a family program coordinator for Navy Safe Harbor Foundation. “They provide the nonmedical support because they are there with them through it all – recovery, training and competing.”
Nothing could be more therapeutic than a solid support system provided by family.
“The greatest thing you’ll see is your loved one performing at the highest levels – things you never thought possible,” said Justin Widhalm, a U.S. Paralympics hopeful who works with Semper Fi Fund. “There’s no use doing it without your family there with you.”
Widhalm, who competed at previous Warrior Games, said his family is what pushed him to perform at his peak and ultimately see him become an ambassador for Warrior Games and wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.
Charlie O’Connors, an Air Force Family Program representative, also shared his observation from Warrior Games past about how much better athletes did with their families in attendance.
While athletes benefit from all support, family members also see the Family Program as an encouragement for themselves and motivation to push their support further, he said.
SOCOM wife Abby Perkins said family support is “extremely important” to her husband Caleb Perkins, active duty in the Army, and all competitors.
Being at the Warrior Games also gives her other families to relate to.
“It gives him that feeling that he can come, that he is still needed and it’s great to have people who give him a brotherhood,” she said.
Misty May-Treanor, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball, made a guest appearance at the welcome reception to thank the families for their strength and everything they do for their loved ones.
“They sacrifice so much and it’s important to have the families because you sacrifice so much as well,” she said. “I’m very glad you can all be a part of this wonderful program.”
Sacrifices on both ends are something John Kremer, retired Navy, knows well. His son of the same name, retired Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Navy John Kremer, a double below the knee amputee, is competing in his second Warrior Games in four events.
“Most families have watched them compete before their injuries and to watch them get back into something they love, no matter the injury, is amazing,” Kremer Sr. said.
“It makes a difference to have family here behind him. I don’t think he would get as much enjoyment out of competing without his family here,” said Kremer Sr.’s wife Susan.
The Kremer family expressed the fact that with family support the wounded, injured and ill service members and veterans can easily overcome their injuries and not let disabilities keep them down.
Family Programs for all branches aim to simply supply encouragement, resources and a community for service members and veterans and their families. Through all the trials, tribulations and triumphs, the tried and true family members are left standing.
“At the end of the day, when cameras shut off, they are there and essentially become the voice for athletes, reminding them why to strive for the best and overcome injuries,” Santana explained.
Everyone in attendance at the Family Program Welcome Reception was in concurrence that families minister a great amount of backing and encouragement for the athletes, who might otherwise have given up after their injuries.
Kremer reiterated that family is everything to him and his son.
Parents give everything for their children, kids believe their parents are invincible and spouses have an undivided commitment to their other’s happiness. Sacrifices are made, hurdles are outdone and achievements are won. Together.
The Family Program celebrates that.
Families as “the compass that guide us, they give us confidence and guidance,” Director of Hero Programs for Fisher House Tish Stropes said. “They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and ultimately they are the best medicine.”
For more on the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/WarriorGames/.