DOD Warrior Games return

By Robert WhetstoneJune 21, 2024

Team Army Ultimate Champion says every day is a new day to get better!
1st LT. Hannah Wright in archery competition at the 2024 Army Trials in March 2024. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. James Dickson) VIEW ORIGINAL

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Department of Defense Warrior Games officially began June 21, 2024, and will run through June 30 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command is the host for this year’s event that features hundreds of wounded, ill and injured active duty and veteran service members, competing in adaptive sports as part of their recovery journeys.

This year marks the 14th anniversary where athletes from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Special Operations Command as well as the Australian Defence Force come to compete in the adaptive sports competition.

Participants of previous Warrior Games have returned to the event in a different capacity.

Brandi Evans, a staff operations and training specialist at the Fort Bliss, Texas Soldier Recovery Unit, is supporting this year’s Warrior Games as a mentor to Army athletes.

“When I first served as a mentor, I believed that it was the next best thing to competing,” explained Evans. “But over the past few years, I found that what I do for the athletes is far more rewarding than any medal.”

2024 DOD Warrior Games
Team Army is taking advantage of some practice time during a sitting volleyball workout during the 2024 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, June 20, 2024. Service members and veterans from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, U.S. Special Operations Command, and representatives from the Australian Defence Force are competing in adaptive sports including archery, cycling, indoor-rowing, powerlifting, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, field, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby from June 21 – 30, at the Walt Disney World Resort. (Photo Credit: DOD photo by Robert Whetstone) VIEW ORIGINAL

“I have been very fortunate to have served as an athlete mentor the last few years,” she said. “It is truly fulfilling to be able to give back to the program that was a crucial part of my recovery journey. Since I no longer compete, this is the opportunity to stay connected to the Team Army family and continue to provide support and guidance through mentorship to the athletes.”

The Army Recovery Care Program promotes adaptive sports that provides opportunities for wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans to start and continue their road to recover and overcome their life-challenges. Warrior Games are part of the process.

“The Warrior Games is a medium for recovery, wellness, and personal development,” said U.S. Army Maj. Casey Turner, the adaptive reconditioning officer in charge at the Army Recovery Care Program. “The impact of Warrior Games is not confined to the 10 days of athletic competition. The journey these athletes endure starts from the moment they sustain their injuries and begin their rehabilitation processes.”

Adaptive sports the athletes are participating in during this year’s Warrior Games are archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, field, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, shooting, indoor rowing and powerlifting.

They are called adaptive sports because the focus is on helping service members realize they can still participate in the same activities after their injury, wound or illness, with small adjustments that enable them to compete. Events and equipment are modified to enable athletes to adjust to a specific classification that matches their injury, wound or illness.

It’s not about making history it’s about making a difference.
Lavone Kendrick, Casey Turner, and Brandi Evans reunite at the 2024 Army Trials at Fort Liberty, NC, March 1-8, 2024. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by MaryTherese Griffin) VIEW ORIGINAL

“This event and all the lead up events promote the pillars of Army Values and helps participants to achieve their personal best within their new normal,” said Turner. “These athletes train and condition their bodies for optimal athletic performance which not only improves their physical health but overflows into emotional, mental, social, and personal growth.”

The SRUs these Soldier-athletes are assigned to, play an important role in preparing individuals not only for the Warrior Games, but for their future physical and mental wellbeing, whether it is to return to duty, or transition to civilian life.

“The Fort Bliss SRU helped me on my road to recovery because all the activities offered at the SRU aided in my recovery,” said Spc. Alexis Pantoja. “It’s great that the SRU has helped me because I would not have been able to figure out things on my own. It was only after spending months and months in recovery would I look back and say that it’s exactly what I needed.” Pantoja does not see any limits to future progress.

“The SRU helped in so many different ways,” said Capt. Hannah Wright, who spent her recovery time with the Brooke Army Medical Center SRU on Joint Base San Antonio in Texas. Wright said she received help in ways she didn’t even expect she needed help with.

2024 Army Trials
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Hannah Wright takes warm up laps during the cycling event at the Army Trials, Fort Liberty, North Carolina, March 3, 2024. Nearly 80 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans are at Fort Liberty, March 1 - 8 to compete in a series of athletic events including archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, powerlifting, track, field, rowing, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball. The Army holds qualifying trials for active duty Soldiers and veterans to assess and select athletes for competition in the DoD Warrior Games. This year, the DoD Warrior Games take place in Orlando, Florida June 21 – 30, 2024. (Photo Credit: DOD photo by Robert A. Whetstone) VIEW ORIGINAL

Wright gave great credit to the occupational, physical, and recreational therapists that helped her and others to renew their mindset and realize they could retain their competitive edge, exploring new ways and sports to push the envelope. “Trying all these events is getting to challenge yourself in a new way and remind yourself you are still a warrior in your own right,” she stated.

“The DOD Warrior Games is so important because it gives American warriors and international allies a professional platform to continue their lives as competitors in a like-minded team with a shared history and mission,” Turner added.

Warrior Games is a competition between the services, but everyone understands they are all on the same team that fights and wins the nation’s wars. They cheer one another across the finish line, no matter what branch of service they belong to, while grinding out a “win” they won before they came to the ‘Magic Kingdom.’

“These athletes are part of my 'why' and they continue to inspire me,” said Evans.

For more information on the DOD Warrior Games, visit the official website.