Helping hands make Warrior Games events possible
Spectators reach out to a U.S. Marine as he finishes his cycling event at the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte drew enthusiastic crowds to the United States Air Force Academy on Sunday for the second day of competition and the cycling events.
As athletes competed on a 10-kilometer loop centered at Falcon Stadium, inspiring hundreds of spectators, others were on-hand to make sure the day’s events and the overall experience of the Warrior Games runs smoothly for all.
Some of the support comes from programs offered by each branch of the military, like the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command, U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, U.S. Navy Safe Harbor and U.S. Air Force Wounded Warriors.
“We are the non-medical care management support,” said Marsha Gonzales (San Antonio, Texas), deputy chief of the Air Force Personnel Center's Warrior and Survivor Care Division. “We follow them through what we call a continuum of care, from the point of injury or illness into a well post transition. We take care of them through the spectrum.”
“Part of our program is to introduce them to this right in the beginning of the rehabilitation stage to help them find a way to adapt to their new normal, whatever that might be.”
The six teams – five from the U.S. and one from the U.K. – are comprised of more than just athletes. Support staff, coaches and even military chaplains are available to the athletes in the various sports offered throughout the week.
But the opportunity to have family on site as cheerleaders is extra special.
“We noticed the first year that there was something missing, and it was a little bit quiet,” said Mary Considine (Washington, D.C.), who works with the Fisher House Foundation. “We thought that the families really needed to be out here.”
Thanks to organizations like Fisher House Foundation, the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the Semper Fi Fund, among others, families are able to travel to the Warrior Games and be part of the adaptive sport experience, which is new for some of the participants.
The event also helps those involved see a wounded warrior’s progress come full circle.
“For me personally, I have kind of always seen it on the front end, when the patients first come back,” said Considine. “I’m seeing just how far they’ve come or what they’ve returned to. It’s phenomenal.”
The Warrior Games also wouldn’t be possible without hundreds of volunteers, drawn to the event from the local Colorado Springs community and across the U.S.
Kimberly Yutsus has been lending a hand to sporting events for more than 10 years and drove in from Calico Rock, Ark., to be part of this year’s Warrior Games as a volunteer. As the daughter of a three-war veteran, she knows the importance of events like these.
““I used to volunteer with the Wounded Warriors in San Diego. A lot of the guys I was working with down there are here for the games,” she said. “If I’m going to give anyone my time, it’s going to be these guys.”
Yutsus’ husband, John, was also in attendance, serving as a volunteer near the cycling award ceremony staging area.
“It’s been beyond my expectations,” he said of the event. “It’s so fulfilling to help them out, and we’re here for them to show support for how much they’ve done for us.”
No matter what kind of support the athletes and their families receive, it’s clear that the Warrior Games can help offer perspective on a new challenge facing wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans today.
“This process saves lives,” Gonzales said. “It definitely is life changing for them but also for you. Seeing them focus on their abilities and not their disabilities is amazing.”
For more from the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/WarriorGames/.