Warriors prove no obstacle too great
September 14, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Sept. 14, 2010) -- They run road races and compete in triathlons. They climb mountains, kayak through rapids and ski on snow and water.
They are America's wounded warriors -- veterans who continue to inspire by their resilience and will to overcome any obstacle placed before them. Six Soldiers and one Marine from Walter Reed Medical Center visited West Point to test their abilities on a challenging set of obstacles on Sept. 10.
The Indoor Obstacle Course Test is a rite of passage for all West Point cadets as a testament to their physical fortitude. Being able to muster through this intense test of balance, strength and stamina is hard enough, given months of practice and training. But for the wounded warriors, with only hours of preparation, the test was an inspirational example of warrior ethos and human perseverance, said Col. Gregory Daniels, West Point Department of Physical Education director.
"These outstanding Soldiers are a testament to the amazing power of the human spirit," Daniels said. "They make no excuses for their so-called disabilities, and they drive on with an indomitable grit that is truly remarkable. Every single cadet should take notice and emulate their invincible spirit."
For that reason, Daniels made sure cadets were present for this event. Hayes Gymnasium roared with the encouraging cheers from the Corps of Cadets as the wounded warriors raced through the timed IOCT.
"I wanted the cadets to cheer them on with all their might and to be inspired by what they observed," Daniels said. "These Soldiers demonstrated the Warrior Ethos in a very unique and powerful way. I wanted as many cadets as possible to see firsthand the type of young person they will eventually have the immense responsibility and awesome privilege to lead."
Cadets lined up to congratulate and speak with the group after the test. Class of 2011 Cadet Brittany O'Connell said she left with a lump in her throat from what she saw.
"It made me realize that even with things as hectic as they are here, your problems may not be as big as you think they are," O'Connell said. "It was truly amazing."
When Daniels told the cadets to remember this event the next time they complained about something being too hard, Class of 2012 Cadet Tom Snukis took it to heart.
"It was definitely inspiring because you see cadets struggle through this every day," said Snukis, who will take the IOCT for score in October. "Then to come out here and see Soldiers missing arms and legs, and they destroyed the IOCT. Inspiring is definitely the word."
As the sole Marine and only double amputee, Lance Cpl. Joshua Wege said he had even more to prove then his colleagues. He was not expecting such a large audience, but he said it fueled his performance with an added dose of adrenaline.
"The entire bleachers were filled and just the sound reverberating off the walls was cool," Wege said. "I've never had crowds cheer me before. I was nervous at the starting line, which I don't get very often, but with everyone watching and the blood pumping, I wanted to do the best I could."
Spc. Matthew Kinsey said the group is pretty close-knit, and it is evident in the way, as professional Soldiers, they support each other. They've been practicing the past few weeks on a smaller course at Walter Reed, Kinsey said, but the IOCT was exhausting.
"At half-speed, the individual obstacles are not bad, but when you go through everything at once, that's a challenge," Kinsey said.
Along with Wege and Kinsey, participating in the IOCT were Sgt. Robert Brown, Pvt. Harrison Ruzicka, Spc. Joshua Rector, Spc. Nicholas Edinger and Sgt. Shane Baldwin.