By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Katherine Hofman, Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (NNS) -- United States servicemembers and British armed forces members totaling more than 200, opened the 2012 Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympics Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 30.
The 2012 Warrior Games opening ceremony began with the presentation of colors by NORAD-USNORTHCOM Joint Color Guard followed by the athlete processional. The warrior athletes walked the Olympic path while family and friends cheered. Following the processional was the symbolic tradition of carrying the Olympic flame.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 30, 2012) Retired Army veteran Melissa Stockwell, from Chicago, lights the cauldron to start the 2012 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo. More than 200 wounded, ill or injured service members from the U.S. and British armed forces are scheduled to compete in the Paralympics-style competition, May 1-5. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Danals/Released)
Representing team Navy/Coast Guard as torchbearers were retired Coast Guard Lt. Sancho Johnson and retired Navy Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Nathan DeWalt.
Johnson, a three-time competitor in the Warrior Games, understands the honor and commitment it is to himself and his teammates to represent the team and the Coast Guard as torch-bearer.
"[The Warrior Games] provides a platform to give your best," said Johnson. "Because I'm representing the team I'm going to give a bit more."
Having participated in the Warrior Games since the inaugural year, DeWalt has seen the games grow in popularity and has realized the impact being part of the 2012 Team Navy/Coast Guard had on the community and families.
"I felt honored and privileged to represent the team," said DeWalt. "It is a big event for the families with all the media attention."
Among the honored guests was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Martin E. Dempsey, who commended the warrior athletes for their service to country and their ability to inspire each other.
"For me, the [Warrior Games] embodies the enduring resilience of our profession," said Dempsey, during a speech to the contributes. "Your commitment to teamwork and determination to persevere, are the very same qualities that led you to serve your nation, and make our military great. These qualities don't go away. You have the desire to be part of something larger than yourself and that is now a desire that is fulfilled in these games."
Recognition of the athlete's dedication and accomplishments was reiterated by special guest speaker, First Lady Michelle Obama, who commended the athletes as a source of inspiration for all Americans.
"No matter how seriously you are injured, no matter what obstacles or setbacks you face, you just keep moving forward," said Obama. "You just keep pushing yourselves to succeed in ways that mystify and leave us in awe."
The 35 warrior athletes are participating as Team Navy/Coast Guard, sponsored by Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program, a key component of the Department of the Navy's 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative. The initiative is meant to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Department of the Navy.
The Warrior Games will continue through May 5, with competitions in cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, volleyball, swimming, and track and field events.
The U.S. Olympic Committee's paralympics military program, provides an opportunity for wounded, ill, and injured service members to participate in competitive sports against members of other branches of service.
(c) US Navy