Healing marks the spot at 2018 Warrior Games
By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.- With just a quiet hint of movement in the Air Force Academy's Holady Athletic Center, spectators lined up to watch the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games shooting competition.

A distance of 10 meters sits between the athlete and electronic target. Athletes have eight minutes to align their target and prepare for an elimination round that would cut their field to the top eight and eventually the competition rounds out with the top three participants competing in air pistol, air rifle standing and air rifle prone.

It's the sport that requires accuracy, control and focus. Earning a perfect score of 10.9 is the ultimate goal for each competitor, but for some Army athletes there's more to the sport than meets the eye.

Sgt. 1st Class Heather Moran says she picked up an air rifle for the first time in 2017.

"My first coach taught me that this sport requires a mind over matter mentality and that's very evident. You breathe, look away and reset. It really puts you in a good place and requires that you are fully present. Once officials tell you to load, I hear complete silence and I'm able to block out the noise. It's very therapeutic," said Moran.

Like Moran, Sgt. Arron Averre is a first time participant at the Warrior Games. His father, David, traveled from Washington State to see his son compete.

"This has been an incredible experience. I'm sure glad I brought him that "BB" gun when he was little. It has a very calming affect on him. That plus the camaraderie and spirit of the athletes is wonderful," he said.

Former professional football player and longtime Warrior Games supporter Herschel Walker agreed.

"These are the true Warriors whether they are on the field, range or basketball court. This program is a life saver for many. I see compete resilience and that's the best medicine for healing," Walker said.

The DoD Warrior Games which runs through June 9, is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. Approximately 300 athletes representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, United Kingdom Armed Forces, Canadian Armed Forces, and the Australian Defence Force will compete in archery, cycling, track, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and - new this year - powerlifting and indoor rowing.