By Robert A. Whetstone
Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - In the days leading up to the opening ceremony of the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games, lightning strikes and high wind warnings couldn't stop the athletes from ceremoniously marching into Falcon Stadium, June 2, 2018 to formally begin the competition.

The track and field events were scheduled to begin June 1, but high winds blew athletes, staff and spectators indoors where they found safe refuge. Instead, competition began a day late, testing the athletes focus and concentration.

Since 2010, the DoD Warrior Games have stayed on course, enhancing the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill and injured service members and exposing them to adaptive sports. Over the years, it has taken on an international flavor, adding teams from the U.K. Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, and Canadian Armed Forces. "It's this network of Veterans that I draw upon to get through the dark times," said Canadian Army veteran Master Corporal Chris Morand.

Approximately 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans will participate in the competition. Teams from the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command will have their hands full with their international counterparts.

Athletes will compete in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball, and for the first time in Warrior Games history, indoor rowing, powerlifting, and time trial cycling.

Actor and comedian Jon Stewart filled the roll of master of ceremonies, explaining why attending this event is important to him year in and year out. "Whenever I spend time with the athletes of the Warrior Games, I hope that just a fraction of their tenacity, their honor, their grace, their resilience, and their teamwork, will inspire me to do better in my life every day," said Stewart. "I hope you're here not just to support them, but to learn from them."

The Games encourages service members and veterans to stay physically active when they return to their local communities, and inspire and promote opportunities for growth and achievement. Every athlete's story is unique and deeply personal," said Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff. These Warrior Games allow all of us, both here and watching from home, to recommit that no warrior takes the road to recovery alone."

An Air Force flyover seemed to stun the nearly full stadium, and some pre-ceremony musical entertainment from country and western singer/song writer Eric Paslay set the stage for the night's special guest Kelly Clarkson.

Clarkson was the winner of the inaugural season of American Idol, and her singing career hasn't slowed down since. She spent time with all the teams and was humbled to perform during the opening ceremony. "It ain't a good life unless you like who you're hanging out with," said Clarkson. "Thank you so much for having us again. It was so cool to do it last year in Chicago, I can't believe they asked me back. It's such an honor."

Clarkson went on to thank the athletes for their service, and the families for the sacrifices they make. "We need more reminders of how much you do for us," she said.

Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded those in attendance that it was eight years ago when a small group of volunteers started the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs. "Their vision was to demonstrate the toughness and resiliency of the men and women in our armed forces," said Selva. The event has grown in numbers and in stature. "The heart of these games are the 300 men and women who sit in front of me tonight," he added. "You are all special and we owe you a debt of gratitude."

To learn more about the 2018 DoD Warrior Games and follow results of the events, go to:
https://dodwarriorgames.com/