Marine Corps Trials Build More than Just a Team

More than 300 wounded, ill and injured Marines are currently competing in seven Paralympic sports at the 2nd Annual Marine Corps Trials in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The Marines are hunting for 50 of their best to represent them at the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs later this year.

Travis Greene, a Marine veteran, serves the ball during a semi-finals seated volleyball match at the Marine Corps Trials at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Feb. 19, 2012. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

The Corps won the Games for the last two years, beating out all other branches of the service.

“This year it’ll be no different,” said Col. Jay Krail, Executive Officer of Wounded Warrior Regiment. “The first year we didn’t even bring a complete team and we won. Now there’s more interest, and with more interest comes better athletes.

Krail realized right away the benefit of holding trials, and participation doubled this year.

“With trials we’re not only able to build our best team possible,” he said, “We’re also able to provide eight days of clinic where athletes get instruction from world-class coaches.”

The Marines even invited veteran athletes from seven allied countries to challenge them even more.

“We fight together and we recover together,” said Michael Wieger, Germany team coach.  “It’s good to get the experience from other countries, because things they are doing to recover are things we can do back home in Germany.”

Wieger was also impressed by the presence of USO San Diego, with more than 50 hard-working volunteers handing out protein bars, water, energy drinks and other snacks at each competition venue.

“Americans do it right. Troops are finding support by their families, by the communities, and volunteers who are doing this mostly on their own expense. That is a real good morale-booster. There are other countries who sure can learn from it.”

The trials conclude tomorrow, and the All-Marine team should be finalized and announced within a week. For results, information and photos, follow the Wounded Warrior Regiment on Facebook. – Joseph A. Lee, USO Staff Writer

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Special Operations Team Responds Well to Last-Minute Call to Warrior Games

Army Staff Sergeant First Class Chris Livesay, a member of 5th Special Forces Group, prepares to line up a shot during the ranking round May 18, 2011.  (Photo: Samantha L. Quigley / USO)

Army Staff Sergeant First Class Chris Livesay, a member of 5th Special Forces Group, prepares to line up a shot during the ranking round May 18, 2011. (Photo: Samantha L. Quigley / USO)

The 18 members of the Special Operations team view their team’s last minute addition to the Warrior Games as a welcome challenge! Though only having a few weeks to practice together, they’re already proving to be a formidable force in the competition.

“I shot my gun [to train with] for the first time two days ago, but I’ve had some prior experience,” said Staff Sergeant Peter Quintalla with a sly grin. He went on to discuss his anticipation of the events ahead.

“I’m excited [about] bringing the whole wounded warrior community together,” he added. “It’s the first time Special Ops has had their own team. It’s great to hang out with all the other branches and have some bonding time.”

Captain Ivan Castro, whose cycling and running in the track and field events, shares his teammate’s excitement.

“It’s awesome that we can get all these wounded service members all together and celebrate sportsmanship, but most of all pushing our limits and showing the nation what we’re all about … showing what were made of,” he said. “I know there’ll be some trash talking, some rivalry between the services, as always, but at the end of the day were all Americans, we all bleed red, and it’s all about pushing each other and the pride of being here. I hope to have a great time and make some new friends.”

Castro, blinded by a mortar attack in Iraq in 2006, remains on active duty and continues to inspire.

I think it’s safe to say the last minute addition of the Special Operations team was a welcome one! — Vyque White, USO

Warrior Games Opening Ceremony Honors Athletes

The Air Force Team participates in the opening ceremonies of the 2nd Annual Warrior Games on May 16, 2011. (USO photo by Samantha L. Quigley)

More than 300 men, women, and children lined the U.S. Olympic Training Center’s Olympic Path on May 16, 2011 to honor 220 warrior athletes.

Representing the Army, Marines, Navy / Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations, each team proudly came down the path as the 4th Infantry Division’s Military Band played and the crowd cheered.

Then the torch relay began, with representatives from each team passing the torch down the path. The journey began with starting with Army Private First Class Joshua Bullis, a triple amputee injured in Afghanistan who will be competing in the 10 meter air rifle and 10 meter air pistol event. He handed off to Marine Corporal Travis Greene. Greene, a double amputee, will be competing in sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and more. Carrying the torch for the Navy team was Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Lipscomb. Currently undergoing chemotherapy, Lipscomb is the first ever reserve component sailor to be assigned to the Blue Angels. Next was retired Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mike Bell, who previously competed in the inaugural Warrior Games last year. For the Air Force it was Major Gwendolyn Sheppard, who was injured in combat in Iraq. Finally, Captain Ivan Castro took the torch for the Special Operations team. Active duty and visually impaired due to a mortar attack in Iraq, he’s an avid runner and cyclist.

Last but certainly not least, the honorary torchbearer of the evening was Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta.

Giunta is the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. Taking the final leg, he ran up several flights of stairs to light the Warrior Games cauldron.

“It’s an honor to have you here at our facility,” said Charlie Huebner, USOC Chief of Paralympics and Opening Ceremonies host. “The Paralympic movement started here, with injured service members returning from World War II, participating in sports as part of their physical activity in the rehabilitation and reconditioning of young men and women. So this, in a sense, home.”

“Perseverance.  It’s defined as the continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. And as I stand her today and look at this crowd, I think ‘Wow. This is what perseverance looks like to me,’” added Mark Goulart, principal at Deloitte, the Warrior Games title sponsor. “The fact that you are here at the Warrior Games proves that you have an extraordinary ability to see. Each of you looked into the future and saw yourself serving your country. And you saw that vision come true. Then, once injured, you looked in the future again and saw yourself recovering and competing in sport. And so here you are, seeing that vision come true.”

The emotional and moving remarks continued as USO President Sloan Gibson took the stage.

“To all of you athletes, you know that the USO’s mission is to lift the spirits of the troops and their families. And we work really hard to try to help do things like this to lift your spirits. We show up and you wind up lifting ours.”

No one can walk away from these events not feeling inspired by the triumph of human spirit. Let the games begin! — Vyque White

See more images of the ceremonies here.

Pentagon Announces Second Warrior Games

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announces the second annual Warrior Games to be held in Colorado Springs, Colo., in May 2011. Mullen addressed the media at the Pentagon on Sept. 20, 2010. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

The Pentagon announced yesterday that the second annual Warrior Games are scheduled to be held May 16 through May 21, 2011, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Again hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee, the games will include shooting, swimming, archery, track and field, cycling, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair basketball.

“When the focus is on ability rather than disability, we see that physical fitness and sports can have a healing affect on the mind, body and soul,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Monday at the Pentagon.  You can read Adm. Mullen full statement on the games at DoD Live.

From a pool of more than 9,000 active-duty soldiers recovering in Warrior Transition Units, the Army will choose 100 competitors to represent it in the games. The Marine Corps will send 50 competitors and the Air Force will send 25. The Coast Guard and Navy will combine to send 25 rounding out the 200-competitor roster.

Click through to read the full American Forces Press Service story. And read about last year’s games from On Patrol Magazine and the On the Frontlines blog.

2010 SportsTravel Award: Vote for the Warrior Games!

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Angel Barcenas and fellow Marines cheer on their teammates during the sitting volleyball during the inaugural Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Facility, Colorado Springs, Colo., May 11, 2010. The Marines went to win a nail-biter over Army 30 to 28. (DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III)

We have some exciting news: the 2010 Warrior Games have been nominated by the readers of SportsTravel magazine for a 2010 SportsTravel Award!

We want to thank you for all of your support of this year’s inaugural Warrior Games and hope you’ll join us in voting them as the “Best New Sporting Event.”  You can also vote for them as “Sports Event of the Year,” at the very bottom of the drop down menu on the ballot.  The ballot appears in the August and September issues of SportsTravel Magazine as well as online (be sure to enter a valid email, because confirmation is required for your vote to count).  Voting is open through September 13, 2010.

Click here to vote “Warrior Games” today and be sure to read a recap of the games from On Patrol Magazine.

John Rich Wraps Up 2010 Warrior Games with USO Concert in Honor of America’s Heroes

John Rich plays a concert at Arnold Hall on the United States Air Force Academy to cap off the 2010 Warrior Games. (USO photo by Michael J. Pach / 3 Peaks Photography & Design)

“When I was asked by the USO to perform as part of the closing ceremonies for the 2010 Warrior Games, I didn’t have to think about my answer. I knew I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to honor our wounded warriors. What they sacrifice, they sacrifice for us all and anything I can do to say thank you and to let them know that we appreciate them and support them in their recovery, I will. Performing for them was an honor and something that I will always treasure.” – John Rich.

A wounded warrior plays with John Rich and his band during a concert at Arnold Hall on the United States Air Force Academy. (USO photo by Michael J. Pach / 3 Peaks Photography & Design)

Rich recently performed an exclusive USO concert for over 500 country music fans during the closing ceremonies of the first-ever Warrior Games. The Games were held in Colorado Springs, CO, and hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Department of Department of Defense.  Rich has a history of supporting the Troops; this was the second USO tour, having gone out in 2005 as part of the country music duo Big and Rich to Germany and Iraq.

Before the concert, Rich visited with Troops at the USO center in Fort Carson and performed an acoustic set.  When he later took the stage at Arnold Hall Theater at the U.S. Air Force Academy, we was joined by three wounded heroes from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  The warriors are participants in Musicorps, an intensive music rehabilitation program founded and run by composer Arthur Bloom that aids healing and improves quality of life during long and difficult periods of recovery.

Rocky Mountain USO director Joe Aldaz presents a gift to country singer John Rich after his concert at Arnold Hall on the United States Air Force Academy. (USO photo by Michael J. Pach / 3 Peaks Photography & Design)

Bloom had this to say about the experience:  “When John Rich and the USO suggested bringing wounded warriors from Musicorps onto the stage with him for this event, we were thrilled, as were the soldiers. Musicorps is an intensive music rehab program that improves quality of life and aids healing during long and difficult periods of recovery.  As SGT Nicholas Firth commented, “it gives us a piece of us back.” It is an honor to bring SGT Firth, and two other wounded warriors – one who picked up a guitar for the first time at Walter Reed and never put it down –  to perform with John Rich at this unprecedented event in order to share their inspirational accomplishment with a wider audience.”

The inaugural Warrior Games were a five-day athletic competition featured 200 wounded warriors, from all branches of the military, competing in seven sports.  The sports featured during the games were shooting, swimming, archery, volleyball, cycling, track and field and basketball.  John Rich recently released his first solo project “Son of a Preacher Man,” and debuted his first chart-topping solo single “Shuttin’ Detroit Down.”  Check out more pics below!

Command Sgt. Maj. Kilpatrick thanks John Rich for entertaining Soldiers and their families at the Fort Carson USO center. (USO photo by Michael J. Pach / 3 Peaks Photography & Design)

Country star John Rich plays for Soldiers and their families at the Fort Carson USO center. (USO photo by Michael J. Pach / 3 Peaks Photography & Design)