COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The days were long, the competition was gripping, anticipation overwhelming and Marines were outnumbered four-to-one. The odds may not have been in their favor, but the Marines welcomed the challenges of the inaugural Warrior Games.
More than 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans from across the Department of Defense competed in the games at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10 – 14.
A team of 50 wounded and disabled veteran Marines from wounded warrior battalions and detachments from across the Corps won the Chairman’s Cup, effectively nailing their names to the pages of Paralympic history.
The weeklong series of Paralympic-style games such as shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus, and shot put, left Marines eager to compete in next year’s games now that they had their title to defend.
The Chairman’s Cup was awarded to the Marines for amassing the highest point ranking as an aggregate of each event throughout the week’s competition.
“These Marines have been my most coachable athletes,” said Brent Petersen, the sitting volleyball team’s head coach. Petersen congratulated the Marines on their success throughout the week.
“Not only have they fought for life, but they have fought to overcome the adversities that may have beaten lesser men.”
The Marine team, defined not by their injuries but their desire to achieve victory, led the games from the start. The wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball teams remained undefeated earning them the gold in both events, while Marines competing in other team and individual events amassed 106 total medal points compared to the Air Force with 80 points, the Army with 68 points and the Navy-Coast Guard team with 48 points.
Service members taunted each other throughout the week and traded insults over whose service is better. However, for medically retired Lance Cpl. Charles Sketch, sportsmanship was never a concern.
“I’m always going to trash talk the other teams, but when it comes down to it we’re all here because this is us living the dream,” he said.
Sketch, a double amputee and blind Marine veteran, was unanimously selected as the Marine’s team captain early on in the games for his contagious charisma and outlook said Cpl. Beau Parra with Wounded Warrior Detachment – Hawaii.
“We’re Marines, so we’re always going to come into a situation with our heads held high as if we’ve already won,” Parra said. “The difference here was that whether we beat the Army or Navy or not, everyone is a winner. These games were about proving to ourselves that we can overcome.”
Overcoming an injury or disability is more than simply healing physical and mental wounds. It involves accepting new obstacles, taking risk and pushing the confines of one’s disabilities – a factor Marines say they accept optimistically.
“I wish all of the wounded warriors were here,” Sketch said. “They missed out on the best time, and I wish they were here to experience this. As more and more people find out about it, hopefully there will be far more people next year.”