Marines Making Noise at 2011 Warrior Games

USMC

The Marines have certainly made their mark on the 2011 Warrior Games. (Photo: Samantha Quigley / USO)

After bringing home top prize, the Chairman’s Cup, last year, the Marine team’s competitive spirit is out in full force.

Ready to defend their title, the 49 athletes, 18 of which are veterans of the games, aren’t content to simply replicate their 2010 performance. They hope to exceed last year’s accomplishments.

At the opening ceremony reception, Sergeant Ricardo Bengochea, who participated in the discus throw, shot put and seated volleyball, was excited to get started.

“I’m looking forward to the camaraderie with my brothers in arms … getting to see friends from last year’s Warrior Games and getting to compete again.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shawn Dunn, an avid swimmer, is excited for a different reason.

“I’m mostly excited for my younger Marines because we went through a lot to get them here,” he said. It’s a great experience for them. That’s my main benefit, watching my younger Marines overcome their obstacles.”

Warrior Games veteran Corporal Travis Greene, who took home two gold medals in 2010 as a member of both the wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball teams, has certainly overcome.

“Since hearing about the Warrior Games, I have gained a lot of motivation to get back in shape. I feel healthier and look better and I am still improving,” he said. “I’m looking forward to all the events, especially basketball and volleyball.

“I’ve been training hard, we’ve been here two weeks together working as a team.”

When asked if the Marines will kick some tail and win big this year, he smiles and said, “That’s our goal!”

Oorah! – Vyque White, USO

Colbie Caillat Set to Perform at Close of Warrior Games

Colbie Caillat

Colbie Caillat (Image courtesy of colbiecaillat.com)

Two-time Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Colbie Caillat will break away from her current tour to honor our wounded warriors as they compete in the second annual Warrior Gamesin Colorado Springs, Colo. The multi-platinum singer will perform an exclusive USO concert for the more than 200 wounded, ill and injured service men and women and their families expected to be on-hand for the Games.

“I can’t wait to get to Colorado and perform my first USO concert at the 2011 Warrior Games,” Colbie said. “When you have the opportunity to do something like this for such a deserving audience, it really is the opportunity of a lifetime. I can’t thank our wounded heroes enough for their sacrifices.”

Colbie, 25, who won two Grammys in 2010, will perform songs from her multi-platinum albums “Coco” and “Breakthrough,” the latter of which debuted at No. 1, and from her new album, “All of You,” set for release on July 12.

Colbie’s current tour concludes on August 13 in Sagres, Portugal, and she also stopped in Washington, D.C. last month to participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

Watch Colbie’s latest music video, “I Do.” – Christian Pelusi, USO

Update: See photos from Colbie’s concert on our USO Flickr account.

Team Air Force Aims High

Retired Air Force Staff Sergeant Stacy Pearsall rallies support from fans during Air Force's seated volleyball game against Navy/Coast Guard on May 18, 2011. (Photo: Samantha Quigley / USO)

The 24-member Air Force team’s spirits are sky high as the second annual Warrior Games commence.

We had a chance to speak with retired Staff Sergeant Jason Morgan just after completing the 100-meter wheelchair race.

“It’s been really exciting,” he said. “I love the camaraderie of feeling a part of the Air Force team again, because I’ve been out for 11 years.

“Everyone here has been supporting me and each other. [We’re] learning from one other — not just how to race but how to deal with these tragic things we’ve had to go through in life.”

Next up for Morgan will be wheelchair basketball and swimming events.

Retired Staff Sergeant Stacy Pearsall, who suffers from traumatic brain injury and PTS from multiple IED explosions in Iraq, will be participating in multiple track and field events, having already won a gold medal on the first day.

“I participated in the games last year and I’m here because I want to set goals for myself. But last year I found out it wasn’t necessarily about achieving those goals but being inspired,” she said. “Not just from my own service, but from other branches of service as well. The one thing I found most motivational was watching a triple amputee swim in the pool… Something I can’t even do with all my limbs. If that doesn’t inspire a person, what does?”

There’s no question that everyone who attends the Warrior Games, whether a participant or spectator, leaves full of hope and inspiration. – Vyque White, USO

Sitting Volleyball Elevated to Special Heights by Camaraderie

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Johnson keeps the ball alive for the Navy/Coast Guard seated volleyball team May 18, 2011. Navy/Coast Guard defeated Air Force, 2-0. (Photo: Samantha Quigley / USO)

When we picture members of the military playing volleyball, many of us still think back to the blockbuster 1986 film “Top Gun,” where Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer and their co-stars square off on the sand as the hit movie’s soundtrack blares.  

The scene at Warrior Games 2011 on Wednesday evening was far different, because it was real.  Instead of fictional heroes flexing muscles created in Hollywood gyms, wounded, ill and injured warriors showed us that some of America’s toughest men and women play volleyball sitting down.

Many images from the sitting volleyball tournament, which concludes Saturday night at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., will stick with me.  But nothing I saw struck me more than what happened after Army finished a match with Special Forces.

After Army’s hard-fought victory, everyone on the Special Forces team, including several athletes missing all or part of one leg, rose to shake hands with the soldiers on the other side of the net.  The Army team quickly rose to greet their brothers and sisters in arms, in a seminal moment of sportsmanship that is often missing from today’s highlight-driven world of athletics.

Despite a raucous crowd and two teams that desperately wanted to win, it was just a game, after all.  About 20 minutes later, the moving scene repeated itself after Navy narrowly defeated Air Force.  Amid war and tragedy, the men and women of the U.S. military continue to show a level of class that’s worthy of the finest fighting force in the world.     

It is an honor to be joining the USO Wounded Warriors team in Colorado Springs for this incredible event. – Tom Sileo, USO