By Robert WhetstoneJune 7, 2018
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Winning means different things to different people. To Soldiers in the U.S. Army, it is something seen in the history of those who came before them, and the support from teammates and family around them.
The 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games, hosted by the U.S. Air Force Academy June 1-9, provides service members an opportunity to win on their terms. "I think Warrior Games are extremely important because it gives our troops an opportunity to come out and compete," said Gen. James C. McConville, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army.
"In the Army, we never leave anyone behind," explained McConville. "We have wounded, injured and ill Soldiers who are really in a competition. They're trying to defeat that wound, that injury and that illness. When they come out here, they're all winners, and they are winning big time."
Growing up, McConville participated in hockey, baseball, football, tennis, and ran cross-country. With his experience in these activities, he has a good perspective of why adaptive reconditioning is so important to a Soldier's recovery. "The thing about sports that's important is it's a lot like the military," said McConville. "It's about being part of a team. It's about competing, and it's about winning, and winning does matter."
"I think what is really important is we have active duty Soldiers and veteran Soldiers that are all competing here," he said. "I see it in their eyes; they're all of a sudden being part of a team again. They're showing their resilience, they're showing their grit, and this is very, very important in their recovery as we go forward."
There is a 'whole Soldier' approach to warrior care that is vital to the VCSA. "When we have wounded, injured, or ill Soldiers, we want to get them back on the field, we want to get them back in the game," McConville said. "If they can return to active duty, that's what we want to do. If they can't, what we want to do is make sure they have a smooth take off (transition) from the military. We are Soldiers for life."
Readiness does not cease when you leave the military. "Absolutely not," he said emphatically. "We want them to live a healthy, active lifestyle for a long time after they leave the military. We have these true professionals in our Medical Command; our physical therapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, and strength coaches. The enablers are there, and we want you (Soldiers) to be fit to life, so you can enjoy that retirement."
At events like Warrior Games, leaders have an opportunity to see the progress made by a Soldier who suffered serious wounds during a mortar strike. McConville said Soldiers who achieved a certain goal one year, get a chance to show more improvements they have made the next. "The fact that you may not get the gold medal this year, doesn't mean you didn't win," he stated.
"When I talk with them (Soldiers) I say, hey, winning matters here," said McConville. "Winning matters in that you set a goal that you achieve. Winning may be just getting in the race; winning may be setting your personal best; winning may be winning the gold medal. You don't come to these games to participate, you come here to win, because winning matters."
One example of winning the VCSA is passionate about is Soldier-now-civilian Tim Bomke. "Here's why I'm impressed with Tim; first of all, Tim has won," he said. "He's defeated that very critical injury he has with his prosthetics. It's not just about him. He is very concerned about the other Soldiers, the other veterans, and he's working with his company right now to take care of our veterans. I'm very impressed with that man."
Family is an important aspect of warrior care for seriously wounded, ill or injured Soldiers. "I've not only talked with the athletes, I've talked to the Families," said McConville. "I think in some ways, these games are more important for the Families. The Families get to see their Soldiers with smiles on their faces, competing, and they get to see them with a purpose that maybe they haven't had in a long time. And they get to see them wanting to win.
"I want to reinforce and I want to thank all the dedicated military and civilians that have taken care of our wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers," he said. "I can see the passion. They come to work every single day trying to help these Soldiers win and we are very, very appreciative of what they're doing every single day at the senior leadership level of the Army."