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Military Kids Report! From the Warrior Games

Military kids around the nation are reporting for Chameleon Kids and MILITARY KIDS’ LIFE magazine on the exciting adventures they are finding as the explore the interesting places military life takes them!

Take a peek inside the 2016 Warrior Games at the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York, with our military kid reporter, Maggie.

What is the Warrior Games?

The 2016 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games is a Paralympic-type event for approximately 250 wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and British Armed Forces. The athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in adaptive archery, cycling, field, shooting, swimming, sitting volleyball, track and wheelchair basketball.

DON’T MISS a glimpse at the games from the perspective of the athletes’ kids
(at the end of this article)!

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Power. Pride. And Spirit. My Look Inside the Warrior Games.

By Maggie, military kid reporter

The Opening Ceremony of the 2016 DoD Warrior Games at West Point commenced with the traditional parade of athletes proudly representing their teams. Although every head was held high with pride, not every athlete entered in the same way. Some rolled in wheelchairs, some used prosthetics, and some were led by service dogs.

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Amidst the pageantry of the ceremony was the striking reality that every one of the athletes had suffered life changing wounds, unimaginable injuries, or devastating illness while serving on duty or in a military training accident.

Each one of these athletes is a warrior who has refused to give up and let their wounds define them.

Through the healing power of athletics they have gained strength in body, heart, and soul. As the torch was passed from one team to another to celebrate the start of the games, so passed the commitment of each warrior who had once served as soldiers together on the fields of battle. As teammates, they would now band together on the fields and courts of athletic competition.

A single moment in these warriors’ lives changed their lives forever.

For soldiers who are used to being so physical every day, such grave injuries or wounds could overwhelm them and force them to surrender their future. Yet, the warriors participating in the games had journeyed far in their recovery process to rehabilitate and transition. They had not only survived, they had persevered through surgeries, treatment, and/or therapy to heal and strengthen their bodies.

 

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Mr. James Rodriguez (with Maggie) is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Office of Warrior Care Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense. Mr. Rodriguez remarked that the point of the Warrior Games is not just to allow these men and women to continue and grow as strong athletes, but as incredible and courageous citizens. This strength was certainly seen by all spectators and the Warrior Games were an inspiration along with an eye-opener to all those who attended.

 

Despite not having an eye, arm or leg; muscular strength or coordination; or having limited mental ability or function; the athletes trained to adapt and build their body to compete in strenuous athletic events.

For instance, single or double amputee runners embraced their prosthetics and braces as tools of power and freedom. They retrained their bodies to run with blades, which forces a greater use of hip motion. Swimmers strengthened their arms to accommodate for the lack of kicking power from their legs. Visually impaired runners learned to completely trust their guide and body while running around the track. Some athletes took their strength to an even more daring level, such as drawing bow and arrows with their teeth.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 10.20.04 AMThe physical strength of these athletes came in many shapes and sizes and was incredible to behold. Yet, above and beyond the sheer strength of these powerful athletes was the incredible mental drive and courage to keep going. For example, when a wheelchair flipped during a basketball game, the athlete not only had to have the upper body muscle to pull himself up, but also the tenacity to get back up and continue to play. Though a racer might not be running with the pack, her pace never waivered as she persevered to the finish line and her own personal best.

These warriors played hard. And, they played to win.

The long-standing rivalries between the service branches were evident as wheelchairs clanked hard against each other, frustrated fists pounded the volleyball courts, and athletes pressed their bodies to surge ahead past their competitors to the finish line. But, perhaps the most inspiring part of the 2016 DoD Warrior Games was in witnessing how the friendly competition between service teams gave way to a greater sense of teamwork and camaraderie.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 10.19.52 AMNo matter what branch of the military they represented, the athletes understood that they were ultimately on the same team. Theirs is a unique team that, through shared experiences such as the Warrior Games, can provide each other with motivation, acceptance, and belonging. It was inspiring to watch rival teammates cheer each other on, pick each other up when they fell, and always offer hugs and high fives in congratulations. These athletes know all too well that every finish line crossed, every basket made, and every point scored was a celebration of an individual’s accomplishments and a gigantic step towards recovery. These personal victories were more valuable than any bronze, silver, or gold medal.

The Closing Ceremony was held at West Point’s Trophy Point. A Battle Monument stands erect there, memorializing the soldiers that died during the Civil War, the war that turned brother against brother. The monument reminds us that we must always stand together in defense of our great nation. It was fitting then that all 250 Wounded Warriors who had battled against each other in rigorous competition now stood together as one team as they were honored for their achievements.

They were one team of mighty warriors who had overcome adversity and proven their strength, dignity, and drive.

Together as courageous athletes, and through programs such as the 2016 DoD Warrior Games, they will continue to inspire and support other wounded warriors who have sacrificed so much. Though they will continue to fight their individual battles, they will do so knowing that their fellow warriors have their back. And though the torch was extinguished to signify the end of the games, the spirit and tenacity of these heroic warriors will continue to blaze.

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MILITARY KIDS SUPPORT MOM and DAD!

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From all around the country, children came to the games to support their parent athletes. These kids stopped to talk to me about how the Warrior Games gives their moms and dads an exhilarating experience as they work toward their goals, competing with other athletes who are just like them.

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This is the Rosario family! This family from Florida was excited and proud to be supporting their husband/ father as he battles PTSD and a Traumatic Brain Injury. They agreed that this experience motivates their father and that he is dedicated to bringing those with a common purpose together. At least one daughter of the Rosario family hopes to follow in the footsteps of her father, making her the 3rd generation to serve in the Air Force. Fredie Rosario’s quote in the Warrior Games’ official program was “Keep your head up, never give up, and continue to fly and fight, and at the end of the day you will win. Keep FLYING Rosario Family!

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This young lady’s mom competed in the shooting, track/field, and swimming events at the Warrior Games. She believes that the Warrior Games has given her mom purpose and confidence. She wants people everywhere to realize that handicap people are STILL people. Her mom’s quote from the Warrior Games’ official program was “Once you get a goal in your mind stick to it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do anything.”

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Thank you to the USO and the Department of Defense for providing this unique opportunity to our military kid reporter who got awesome behind the scenes access to provide this report to her fellow military kids and community.

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