ORLANDO, Fla. — After months of training and nail-biting anticipation, Team Army finally kicked off their quest for Department of Defense Warrior Games dominance on Aug. 19, 2022, with a change-of-plans opening ceremony at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The ceremony was scheduled to be an extravaganza in Champion Stadium with over 300 athletes from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, Canada and Ukraine marching in with music blaring and families cheering.
There was to be the traditional torch lighting ceremony, special appearances and a concert by none other than Darius Rucker. But Central Florida weather decided to rain down thunder and lightning. But the extremely adept Disney crew worked their magic and moved the ceremony indoors to the Advent Health Arena.
Comedian, actor, and activist Jon Stewart is no stranger to the DoD Warrior Games. Stewart has been the master of ceremonies many times in the past, and said it was an honor for him to be amongst the nations heroes assembled at Walt Disney World Resort.
Darius Rucker also addressed the crowd during the abbreviated opening ceremony. He told the athletes and their family members that he skipped his son’s first high school football game to have the honor of performing at the DoD Warrior Games. He explained how difficult it was to tell his son that he was going to miss his game.
Rucker was surprised by the response he got back from his son when he told him exactly who he would be performing for and why. Rucker said his son’s response was, “You wouldn’t be my dad if you didn’t miss my game.”
Earlier in the afternoon of opening day, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, U.S. Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command, stopped by training to encourage the team. Dingle spoke with U.S. Army Spc. Justin Anderson, of the Brooke Army Medical Center Soldier Recovery Unit, near the end of sprint training.
Dingle asked Anderson what events he would be competing in during the Warrior Games. “Overall, I’m doing cycling, track and field,” explained Anderson. “I’m running the 100 and 200 [meter races], and if they don’t cancel it, the 400.” Anderson is also competing in swimming, archery and seated discus.
Anderson confessed that swimming was his best event, having competed in high school. “So, you’ll be bringing home a medal,” Dingle stated emphatically. Anderson was familiar with swimming the short course in high school and said it will be a little different swimming long course here at Warrior Games. The difference in the courses didn’t faze Dingle.
“Oh, but you got this!” said Dingle. Anderson enthusiastically agreed. “I definitely got this,” said Anderson. “It’s in the bag.”
It was an extremely hot day for training at the track, but Dingle took time to speak with every Team Army participant that was still training. He stopped by Team Ukraine to give them a shout out and offer encouragement. He even took in a mock 100-meter race between Anderson and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Alan Zohdi.
Zohdi, originally from Boston, is currently assigned to the Fort Benning Soldier Recovery Unit, and said being there prepared him for the weather at the games. “Luckily being at Fort Benning helped me be conditioned to the Florida heat,” said Zohdi. “It’s not really bothering me that much. And for the most part, a lot of us [on Team Army] are staying on top of hydrating. So far, we’re doing pretty good.”
The Army Recover Care Program is the place where wounded, ill and injured Soldiers go to recover with the confidence they, their families and caregivers will be well cared for.
Warrior Games is an event where Soldiers and their families exhibit their resilience and to overcome any challenge and represent the strength of the nation.
The first events to kick off Warrior Games are shooting and wheelchair rugby preliminary matches. The daily schedule is posted on the DoD Warrior Games website.