Post hosts Warrior Games trials
April 21, 2014
- "When you go from Army to civilian life, you're used to being part of a team. I was able to go play wheelchair basketball and become part of another team. The camaraderie there is pretty strong. We're all friends." - Chris Lee, a retired sergeant and double amputee who competed in air rifle, archery and wheelchair basketball for his first shot at the Warrior Games.
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- More than 200 Wounded Warriors and Veterans from all military branches will gather at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., this September to vie for top honors at the Warrior Games. But before the seven-sport competition can commence, the Warriors must be chosen.
This year, Fort Campbell was tapped to host the South East Regional Medical Command-East regional trials -- which began Monday morning and wrapped up today. Wounded Warriors and Veterans who completed level one trials had the opportunity to compete against fellow athletes from Forts Benning, Gordon and Stewart, Ga.
"We're happy to be able to host our sister WTBs from Georgia and show them how we do business here at Fort Campbell," said Rebecca Murphy, physical therapy supervisor for the Fort Campbell Adaptive Reconditioning program.
"It's been so awesome to see how excited our Soldiers are to be out here competing."
At locations such as Fryar Stadium and the 101st Airborne Division Parade Field, athletes competed in all seven of the Warrior Games events: track and field, air rifle/pistol, swimming, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, archery and cycling. All shared the goal of becoming one of 100 competitors Army-wide to advance to the level three trials, to be held at West Point in June. According to Murphy, this selection process is different from years past, when hopefuls would go to individual sport camps.
"I definitely think this is a smarter way to do it -- having an overall competition, getting your good multi-sport athletes selected out," she said. "Fort Campbell is very happy to be the pilot program for this and to set the standard."
One such multi-sport athlete who hopes to represent Fort Campbell and the Army is Chris Lee, a retired sergeant and double amputee who competed in air rifle, archery and wheelchair basketball for his first shot at the Warrior Games.
"It would be awesome if I get selected to go there," he said. "I would feel like it was a big personal achievement, especially with this being my first time out. The rookie goes to the nationals -- it's almost like a Cinderella story."
Lee's main sport is archery, but he also has confidence in his abilities on the basketball court as a member of the Music City Lightning -- a wheelchair basketball team based out of Nashville.
"I've made a lot of progress with them," said Lee. "I had an actual coach for the first time and that definitely helps. I was able to make leaps and strides."
Lee said the interest in adaptive sports began as a way to relieve stress and redirect his focus.
"When you go from Army to civilian life, you're used to being part of a team," he explained. "I was able to go play wheelchair basketball and become part of another team. The camaraderie there is pretty strong. We're all friends."
It's that type of shift in attitude that makes these competitions so important, according to Murphy.
"The folks they're competing with are on exactly the same playing field that they are," she said. "They've been wounded, they've been ill … all have fought through the same challenges to get to where they are right now. So this is a great way for them to come out and show what they still can do."
A physical therapist by trade, Murphy says she enjoys the fact that the Wounded Warriors are getting such a great physical workout -- but also that the heart of her work is contributing to the mind-body-spirit connection that puts these Soldiers back on an even keel.
"It's incredibly rewarding just to be a part of that experience," she said. "What we do in the Adaptive Reconditioning Program is a small slice of what the Soldiers get overall while they're in the WTB, but we do get to have a lot of fun."