Army to Launch Wounded Warrior Sports Program
December 19, 2007
By Tim Hipps
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, Dec. 19, 2007) - The Army will launch a Wounded Warrior Sports Program for active-duty Soldiers with life-altering injuries in January, giving them the opportunity to compete at the national level.
The Army will pay for the athletes' registration fees, transportation, lodging and per diem while they compete at selected events. Athletic attire also will be issued to the Soldiers, who will represent the Army during competitions.
"The goal is to allow our wounded warriors an opportunity to continue to participate and compete in state and national competitions," said Willie Wilson, acting director of Soldier programs at the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command. "We have more and more wounded Soldiers staying on active duty who participate in sports. This is an avenue for them to continue their athletic dreams."
The program was designed for Soldiers injured in war - primarily amputees - who have remained athletically active at the installation level, where finding suitable competition can be difficult.
"We're trying to help keep these Soldiers active," Army Sports Specialist Mark Dunivan said. "We want to give them the same opportunity that the able-bodied Soldiers would have to compete in a sport."
The Soldier-athletes must meet established standards to be considered for support in their respective sport. U.S. Paralympic officials served as advisors to help create the program and recommended the qualification criteria.
"Everybody is not going to be a Paralympic athlete, nor does everybody want to be, but everybody wants to be active," said John Register, associate director of outreach and development for the U.S. Paralympic Committee. "This program allows for an avenue that is more greatly needed than the Paralylmpic side of the house."
Mr. Register was an Army World Class Athlete Program competitor in track and field before a hurdling accident led to the partial amputation of his left leg. He competed in swimming at the 1996 Summer Paralympics in Atlanta and won a silver medal in the long jump at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
"The Army is providing opportunities that are not special or different or unique - it's just opportunities that it would provide to anybody else," Mr. Register said. "The Army has All-Army Sports programs on its calendar. This is just a seamless transition onto the All-Army calendar that is just taking care of our own. Whether you have the physical disability or not, the opportunity is there for you to participate, and it's no different if you're an able-bodied athlete."
"For WCAP to add this program is phenomenal. It's taking care of Soldiers, and that's the right thing to do. It's for all those troops on the ground that need some place to continue their sports," he added.
The first event is for adaptive skiers, scheduled for Jan. 24-28 at Winter Park, Colo. An adaptive snowboarding competition follows at the 2008 USA Snowboarding Association National Championships March 31 through April 7 at Copper Mountain, Colo.
Archery, air rifle and pistol shooting, swimming, track and field, and weightlifting competitions are available for disabled athletes April 17-20 at the Desert Challenge Regional Games in Tempe, Ariz.
The Mid-America Games will play host to track and field competitors May 2-4 in Stillwell, Kan. The Endeavor Games, scheduled for June 5-8 in Edmond, Okla., will offer archery, basketball, pingpong, shooting, swimming, tennis and weightlifting.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games, scheduled for July 25-29, offer the aforementioned sports, along with air-gun shooting, nine-ball, softball, quad rugby, bowling, handcycling, power soccer and wheelchair slalom.
The 60th National Amputee Golf Championships, slated for Aug. 19-22 in Castle Rock, Colo., is the final event on the original list, which is subject to change. A half-marathon and triathlon likely will be added soon.
Instructions for the application process to participate in the Wounded Warrior Sports Program are accessible on the Internet at www.ArmyMWR.com by clicking on Recreation & Leisure, and then clicking on Sports & Fitness.
For more details, contact Dunivan at email@example.com or 719-526-3908 or Peggy Hutchinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-681-7211.
(Tim Hipps writes for FMWRC Public Affairs)