COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- If the 2013 Warrior Games had a more regal feel than previous games, it’s because Prince Harry, or Capt. Henry Wales, attended the opening ceremony today at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The British royal joined more than 260 wounded, ill or injured service members and veterans in kicking off the Warrior Games, a Paralympic-style competition that’s been dominated by the Marine team since the Games began in 2010.
Athletes from all U.S. military services will compete with more than 35 service members and veterans from the British Armed Forces.
U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder, who competed in the 2012 Warrior Games and went off to win Gold at the London 2012 Paralympics, lit the ceremonial cauldron to start the Games. Snyder was injured while deployed to Afghanistan in Sept. 2011.
The 50-strong Marine team arrived in Colorado, looking to further continue their legacy by extending its gold reign and holding on to the Chairman’s Cup, lightheartedly known as the “commandant’s cup” since the Marine team keeps winning. Marine Maj. Jonathan Disbro held the Ultimate Champion title in 2011 and 2012. This year, nine athletes will compete for the title of Ultimate Champion, a pentathlon style event.
The athletes will compete in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field and sitting volleyball. Athlete’s injuries and illnesses vary from amputations, spinal cord injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The competition’s mission is to elevate wounded, ill and injured service member’s abilities through athletic competition and to foster healthy competition between all branches of military service, both national and international.
Admiral James A. Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke during the opening ceremony and said he and his wife look forward to the competition every year.
“Our nation’s wounded, ill and injured are very special people to us, and this is the highlight of our year, every year,” Winnefeld said. “You warriors are the best of the best. You’re here because of you’re willingness to overcome challenges of illness, injury - both seen and unseen, coupled with the challenges that any superior athlete must overcome and achieve in greatness. Your heroism and determination are an inspiration. Whenever I’m having a bad day or I’m facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge, I just think of you, and my day becomes a very nice day.”
Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos and his wife Bonnie, met with the All-Marine Warrior Games team following the ceremony. The Amos’ have long been supporters of the Warrior Games and encourage their Marines to dominate again for the fourth year in a row.
“I’m reminded of last year, and the year before when we rolled out here and watched the Marines,” Amos said. “We walked out of there last year and the chief of Army pulled me aside and said, ‘That’s the last time the Marines are gonna win.’ I just looked at him and laughed.”
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett said few yet motivating words for his Marine athletes.
“There will be a four-peat. Go win.”