COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFNS) — The 2013 Warrior Games began May 11, when Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder, with the help of Prince Harry and Olympian Missy Franklin, lit the official torch during the event’s opening ceremonies at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here.
From May 11-16, more than 200 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from the U.S. Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy, as well as a team representing U.S. Special Operations Command and an international team representing the United Kingdom, will compete for the gold in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and U.S. Air Force Academy here.
The military service with the most medals will win the Chairman’s Cup.Snyder said he was honored to light the cauldron.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to still be a part of something very near and dear to my heart,” he said. “The Warrior Games have already had an impact on so many lives, and I am truly honored to represent the U.S. Navy in broadening the event.”
While serving in Afghanistan in 2011, Snyder lost his vision when an improvised explosive device detonated. He competed in the 2012 Warrior Games. Later that year, he went on to qualify in swimming for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where he won two gold medals and one silver medal. Snyder won the men’s 400-meter freestyle on the exact one-year anniversary of his injury.
Third-time Warrior Games attendee Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. spoke during the event’s opening ceremonies.
“Our nation’s wounded, ill and injured are very special people to me and my wife, Mary, and they will continue to be special to us. This is the highlight of our year, every year,” he said.
The admiral told the athletes they are the best of the best.
“You warriors are here because of your willingness to overcome great challenges, the challenges of illness and injury, both seen and unseen, coupled with the challenges that any superior athlete must overcome in achieving greatness,” he said. “Your heroism and determination are an inspiration. Whenever I’m having a bad day or I’m facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge, I just think of you, and my day becomes a very nice day.”
Winnefeld also recognized the athletes’ family members who serve as caregivers.
“Mary and I extend our heartfelt thanks to the family members and friends of our athletes here today, especially those who unselfishly dropped everything else in their lives to become dedicated caregivers,” he said. “It’s very hard work, and it’s often overlooked. They are very special people.”
The admiral also extended congratulations to athletes like Snyder who now compete on the Paralympic team and win gold medals for the U.S. team.
The Warrior Games were created in 2010 as an introduction to adaptive sports and reconditioning activities for service members and veterans.
Adaptive sports and reconditioning are linked to a variety of benefits for wounded, ill, and injured service members across all branches of the military. Benefits include less stress, reduced dependency on pain and depression medication, fewer secondary medical conditions, higher achievement in education and employment, and increased independence, self-confidence, and mobility.
The fourth annual Warrior Games are hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and supported by the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the United Service Organizations, the Fisher House Foundation, the Semper Fi Fund, the Bob Woodruff Foundation and other corporate sponsors.
“We are proud to host the Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy,” Charlie Huebner, the chief of Paralympics for the U.S. Olympics Committee, stated in a release.
“Paralympic sport has a tremendously positive impact on individuals with physical disabilities,” Huebner added, “and the Warrior Games allow us to salute these fine young men and women who have served their countries honorably.”Fortenberry, 355th Civil Engineer Squadron and point of contact for fundraiser. “This pays for registration for two golfers. Since we’re not sending golfers to the charity golf tournament, we are going to pay for two participants from the AFEV, they were unable to pay for themselves.”
The money being collected will go towards various projects to improve the widows’ lifestyle.
“The money collected goes into various parts,” Fortenberry said. “Things like repairs, transportation, upgrades, and entertainment, just anything to enhance their lives, that the Air Force Assistance Fun can’t be used for.”
Donating money isn’t the only way Airmen can help.
“AFEV is always looking for help,” Fortenberry said. “If anyone wanted to put on a golf tournament for them or put on some other fundraiser, where half the proceeds go to their organization and half go to the AFEV. It’s one of our greatest causes out there and it would really be worth the time.”
Airmen can also donate by entering in a chance to win an all-expense paid trip to the 2013 U.S. Open Championship. A $20 minimum entry fee is required. Airmen can enter by contacting their first sergeants. A drawing will be held May 18 and the winner will be notified by phone.
The final day to donate will be May 10. To register for the golf tournament, please visit www.afev.us/GolfClassic.html If you have any questions or would like to donate or purchase a raffle ticket, please contact your first sergeant or Fortenberry at 228-4503.