By Mr. John Brooks (Army Medicine)February 19, 2015
Seven Soldiers assigned to the Fort Leonard Wood Warrior Transition Unit have been preparing since November for the 2015 Warrior Games and trials scheduled from Monday through March 6 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Regional trials are the primary means for qualifying prospective athletes to the Army trials selection at Fort Bliss, Texas, from March 21 to April 4. The Fort Bliss event will determine selection for competition in the 2015 Warrior Games, date and location to be determined.
The high level of competition at the Warrior Games requires trained and prepared athletes.
"I've seen a guy -- with one arm -- cycle 18 and one-half miles and beat me," said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Mathis, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital's WTU platoon sergeant. "And his prosthetic fell off -- and he still beat me."
The 2015 regional trials include seven individual sports: archery, cycling, shooting, swimming, track, discus and shot put; and two team sports: sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. Athletes are encouraged to compete in two or more events.
"One of the biggest challenges for wounded warriors is retaining a sense of importance and belonging, because they can't operate like they used to," Mathis said.
"A lot of them used to be world- class athletes, expert marksmen. When they're identified with injuries or illnesses, they're separated from the Army population to recover. Consequently, it's not uncommon to lose a sense of importance, a sense of 'I belong' and that they matter to the Army. The Warrior Games was developed to bring that back to them," Mathis added.
These events expose Soldiers to friendly competition, while fostering camaraderie and raising awareness for adaptive reconditioning programs. They celebrate the achievements and abilities of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, and enhance unit physical training and adaptive reconditioning programs.
"Compared to when I was at my prime, I'm nowhere close, but I'm happy with my progress -- very happy with my progress," said Sgt. Joshua Palmer, an all-state swimmer in high school and Army engineer deep-sea diver. "I went from thinking I was going to lose my feet -- that I wouldn't be able to walk again -- to competing on a national level. That's pretty darn cool."
"I'm thankful that I'm still able to do some of what I used to do. I haven't had to give up everything," Palmer said.
Palmer said his key to success is to have a vision, set goals, dedication and stubbornness.
"The mind is a powerful weapon. You truly can achieve much more than what you think your body is capable of," Palmer said.
WRMC, in collaboration with Warrior Transition Command and the U.S. Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, conduct the trials, while WTU cadre and medical support staff assist athletes leading up to and during the Warrior Games.
The Warrior Games, previously a joint endeavor between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Department of Defense, allows wounded, ill and injured athletes from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and the Special Operations Command to compete for gold in seven sports.
This year's competition is sponsored by the Department of Defense with the Marine Corps hosting the games.
Eligible athletes are wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans.
An active-duty athlete who separates from the Army under honorable conditions after being selected and notified by the WTC may still participate in the Warrior Games as a veteran.