JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - After a very intense and competitive championship game, the Center for the Intrepid/Warrior Transition Unit team came out on top against the 512 Geospatial Engineer Detachment Alpha team 21 - 11 during the U.S. Army South Wheelchair Basketball Tournament champtionship here Oct. 30.
In recognition of October's National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Army South hosted its first wheelchair basketball competition, which included five teams from within Army South with the semi-final winner facing the wounded warrior wheelchair basketball team.
"[The wheelchair basketball tournament] is an incredible opportunity to gain awareness and understanding of the resiliency of these individuals with disabilities on and off court," said Col. Morgan Lamb, the Army South chief of staff, during remarks at the finals.
The tournament was held to honor the wounded warriors and their capabilities to raise awareness of the benefits of employing people with disabilities.
"[Wounded Soldiers] are not handicapped individuals," said Staff Sgt. Michael Shnaekel, a topographic operations non-commissioned officer in charge with Army South's 512 Geospatial Eng. Det. "They were wounded through combat service. We need to show they are capable of doing anything and everything."
Justin Lane, who served as a combat engineer for five years in the Army before he was injured during combat and lost his leg, sang the National Anthem during the tournament.
As a wounded warrior and former member of the wounded warriors' wheelchair basketball team, Lane knows what the game means to a wounded warrior's physical and mental strength.
"For the wounded warriors it's also part of their therapy," said Lane. "It gets their mind outside of what happened to them and be involved in sports and have a good time."
Staff Sgt. Marco Orihuela, a member of Center for the Intrepid/Warrior Transition Unit basketball team, stated the basketball game is one way he and his team-mates can maintain and strengthen their mental, physical and emotional states.
"The basketball game helps me out as a wounded warrior therapy wise," said Orihuela. "It cures our mind. We focus on basketball. We focus on playing and trying to score points and get better. It also helps us out keeping in shape."
The wheelchair basketball tournament exemplified that people with disabilities are major contributors in the community and should not be denied the opportunity to work and advance in the workplace.
"Today's game is not about winning or losing, it's about the strength and resiliency of playing the game," said Lamb. "It will teach us to respect the potential in each and every individual."
According to Lane, coming back from combat injuries and trying to press on with life is difficult and stressful. He said playing sports, however even for a short time, gives wounded warriors the motivation they need to be successful.
"I encourage people to come and support the wounded warriors," said Lane. "Especially when its events like the wheelchair basketball tournament because they are supporting not only their brothers and sisters in arms but the ones who have been wounded and sacrificed even more and they are trying to live on and continue having a great life."