On April 30, over 200 wounded, injured and ill U.S. Military personnel commenced their fight to see who will reign supreme at this year's Warrior Games.
The six-day event, which wraps on May 5, includes wounded service members from the Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations Command and is hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee's Parlympic Military Program in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Throughout the competition, participants compete for gold medals in a bevy of sports including swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track and field and wheelchair basketball. In addition to competing for personal awards, the athletes also vie to win the Chairman's Cup, which is awarded to the top service branch.
The event was launched in 2010 through a joint endeavor between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Department of Defense. Founders of the games created the competition to highlight the role of adaptive or disabled sports in the recovery of wounded, injured and ill soldiers.
"Adaptive sports and reconditioning play a critical role in allowing our wounded, ill and injured soldiers to achieve their physical goals and build the confidence essential for success in the next phase of their lives, whether they return to the force or move on to civilian life," Brig. Gen. Darryl Williams, commander of the Warrior Transition Command (WTC), said in a statement.
The WTC, which operates units across the country, helps wounded, injured and ill service members heal and transition to their next steps. At the units, soldiers devise comprehensive transition plans with short and long term goals in multiple categories. Adaptive sports are also implemented into the soldiers' recovery plans.
Spec. Jasmine Perry, a Warrior Games participant said she was initially apprehensive to try adaptive sports after her leg was amputated following a training accident in 2005.
"After my injury, I had heard about adaptive sports but I never wanted to participate because I didn't want to feel like I was different from anybody else," she said during a recent news conference.
Perry explained that she later had a change of heart after participating in a wheelchair basketball game. In the Warrior Games, she's competing in swimming, track and field.
"For me, it's just another opportunity to compete," she said.
Lt. Col. Daniel Dudek, also a Warrior Games participant says adaptive sports has certainly helped his recovery. He was wounded in July 2007 while serving with the 4th Stryker Brigade out of Fort Lewis, Wash. The incident left him paralyzed below the knee on both sides.
"I can definitely say that [adaptive sports] does help the healing process," Lt. Col. Dudek said during a news conference. "It's greatly reduced my pain. It hasn't eliminated it, but the more active I am, the more I am able to manage it."
In the end, Williams says the soldiers don't want sympathy, they just want to prove that they can overcome their hurdles.
"None of these soldiers ? whether they have spinal cord injuries or amputations ? don't want anybody feeling sorry for them," he said. "This is about them seizing the day, celebrating and being the best they can be. They signed up to be Army soldiers and they are still Army soldiers."