FORT BLISS, Texas -- Over 80 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans came to Fort Bliss to compete for a spot on Team Army for this year's 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games. After 10 days of intense competition in 14 different sports, the 2019 Army Trials is coming to a close.
Returning Army Trials athletes like Staff Sgt. Samuel Daniels, who was also a 2018 Team Army member, are making the most of their second Army Trials, while also mentoring first-time participants.
"I'm one of the big dogs now, whereas last year we were the trainees," Daniels said. "I was here last year so I knew what to expect, but I also did two new sports (archery and shooting) so I could identify with that 'new' feeling this year too. I'm excited and nervous and I hope I (make Team Army) again."
Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Beth King participated in her first Army Trials this year and was humbled by the opportunity.
"It is truly an honor to be [at Army Trials]. When you have an injury that changes your abilities it is easy to lose yourself in the diagnosis and in the list of things you can no longer do," said King.
While Army Trials is a competition, with a chance to go to Warrior Games on the line, behind the scenes it's an opportunity, particularly for veterans, to be around others with similar injuries and in similar situations, something they may not have readily available where they live.
"As a veteran, it's easy to feel invisible or even forgotten. I came here only knowing one other person and believing that cycling was all I was really good at. Being here I've found new allies, people who see me and want me to succeed at more than just my specialized event," King said.
Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Olson, another first-time participant, also enjoyed the opportunity to compete at Army Trials and be around other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. "Watching people overcome whatever (injury or illness) they have to overcome every day and come out here and compete the way we are is amazing," Olson said. "It's motivating and inspiring and being around others facing similar challenges is great for me."
Now that the Army Trials competition has come to an end, its participants will head home and wait to hear if they will be one of 40 athletes selected to represent Team Army at the DoD Warrior Games at Tampa. Those who are not selected for Team Army this year may try again next year, something Daniels encourages them to do for one simple reason: family.
"Being at Army Trials is like a family reunion. We all keep in touch and motivate and support each other, not just with adaptive sports, but in life too," said Daniels. "It's great to be able to see everyone in person and that alone is worth the trip."