NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND, Calif. – The Department of Defense Warrior Games Challenge, held June 2-12 at Naval Base Coronado, leveraged the power of adaptive sports to provide healthy competition for service members.
More importantly, it provided camaraderie and community as they heal from visible and invisible injuries.
“You have shown all of us that there is no such thing as a bad day,” said Gen. Gary Brito, commanding general of Army Training and Doctrine Command and the host of the DOD Warrior Games Challenge. “You have shown all of us what is in the art of possible when you wake up with a can-do attitude, and you have shown us an obstacle can be brief and to just get over the obstacle.”
Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and the founder of the Invictus Games, spent time with athletes during competition and at the Send-Off Dinner, encouraging the athletes to never forget the value of themselves.
“My hope is that this moment empowers you to continue your journey and to reimagine the limits of your own lives,” Prince Harry said. “Encourage others to believe in themselves, to believe in the power of recovery, and to make the impossible possible.”
Athlete service members and veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Space Force, Coast Guard and Special Operations Command competed in eight individual sports and three team sports.
The eight individual sports were archery, cycling, field, indoor rowing, powerlifting, shooting, swimming and track. The three team sports were sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.
Adaptive sports has been a positive influence for Maj. Tori Camire of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Solider Recovery Unit, who was competing in her second Warrior Games event.
Camire earned a gold medal in road race cycling, silver medals in the shot put and relay team row, and bronze medals in powerlifting and time trial cycling.
“It means a lot for me to compete,” Camire said. “When I first came to the SRU, I was in a really dark place. At the time, my 13-year career was coming to an end, and I had a hard time dealing with it. My SRU was advertising for the Warrior Games Challenge, and at first I thought there was no way I would make the team. I decided to try out, and here I am.”
“I retire next month, but this is something I want to continue to be a part of. I’ll compete in the Invictus Games (in Dusseldorf, Germany) in September, and next year I’ll try out for Team Army for the Warrior Games and Team U.S. for the Invictus Games,” she added.
For Staff Sgt. Robert Ellison, stationed at Fort Campbell SRU, his first DOD Warrior Games Challenge showed there is a complete brotherhood among the other service members. Ellison tore his left hamstring competing in the 400-meter relay, but he was amazed how the other service members supported him.
“That helped me mentally,” said Ellison, who won gold medals in the 50-meter backstroke, 50 breaststroke, 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 200 relay, silver medals in the 200 dash, 400 dash, 800 run and 1,500 run and bronze in the 100 dash. “It’s genuine caring for each other.”
The program taught Ellison that every sport can be adaptive where they can compete.
“Even though you’re injured, whether it’s mental or physical, you’re not out of the fight and you’re not out of the game,” Ellison said. “We can still improvise, adapt and overcome.”
Adaptive sports brought Sgt. Carl Judd of Fort Moore SRU out of his comfort zone mentally and physically.
“Every time I do an adaptive sport, I’m hurting, but it’s a good hurt,” said Judd, who competed in discus, shot put, shooting, sitting volleyball and wheelchair racing. “It’s not like ‘I have to lay in bed for the next five or six days.’ I did something I wanted to do. Yes, there’s some pain, but it’s not much different from when I’m going to do a hard workout.
“Adaptive sports does that, and it allows you to be you for a few minutes. That has a lot of healing power.”
In his first DOD Warrior Games Challenge, Master Sgt. Michael Haley earned five swimming gold medals in the 50 backstroke, 50 breaststroke, 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle relay, golds in 400 wheelchair racing sprint and in powerlifting, silver medals in the 100 and 200 wheelchair racing sprints and a silver in archery.
“It’s fantastic to see everybody compete and come around,” said Haley, who is at the Fort Stewart SRU who also worked in the SOCOM community with the Air Force, as well as the Army. “It provides more opportunities showing what recovering Soldiers are still capable of.”
And the advice Haley would give to those interested in competing in the DOD Warrior Games Challenge?
“Come on. Let’s see what you got,” he said.
Those interested in learning more about the DOD Warrior Games can visit www.DoDWarriorGames.com.