By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda L. Kilpatrick, Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO- Eight wounded, ill and injured service members from Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) have been selected to participate in the second annual Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. May 16 to 21.
"The Warrior Games serve as an introduction to Paralympics-like sport competition for injured service members, while at the same time building camaraderie and raising awareness of adaptive sports," said Zona T. Lewis, Navy Safe Harbor Strategic Communications Analyst. "They may inspire wounded warrior athletes to continue training for elevated athletic competition, including the Paralympics."
Selected participants have a variety of medical conditions that include upper and lower body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairment or post-traumatic stress disorder.
"When I was at [National Naval Medical Center] Bethesda, a Navy Safe Harbor representative approached me about participating in the Warrior Games," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tyler Burdick, from NMCSD's Navy Medical Hold Unit. "I thought it would be a really great opportunity to try to get motivated to recover and be active again."
While on patrol during his third deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, Burdick's armored vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Burdick sustained shattered heels, dislocated ankles, torn soft tissue in his feet and broke his right leg in several places.
"Once you deal with your personal issues regarding your injury, everything else falls into place," said Burdick. "The opportunities are there for you to succeed, you just have to be a motivated person and stay positive."
Burdick will compete in swimming and shooting the SH1 Air Pistol and Air Rifle.
"Warrior Games is more of a rehabilitation opportunity for me," said Burdick. "It's a good opportunity to be around other people who are going through similar experiences."
More than 200 service members from all U.S. military branches will compete this year for the gold, silver and bronze medals in such categories as cycling, shooting, archery, track and field, wheelchair basketball, swimming and sitting volleyball.
"The most important thing is just to be physically fit; that's the most important thing right now," said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Selemani Johnson, from NMCSD's Navy Medical Hold Unit. "My ultimate goal is to compete in the Paralympics, but for now I'm just taking one step at a time." Johnson sustained a spinal cord injury last year from a motorcycle accident but refuses to let that slow him down. "I'm just trying to stay fit so I can go out there and kick some butt," said Johnson. "This is a great opportunity and I would definitely want to do this again next year."
Johnson will compete in track and field, wheelchair racing, swimming and the sitting discus.
Last year more than 187 wounded, ill or injured service members participated in the Inaugural Warrior Games. The Navy and Coast Guard team won a total of 12 medals.
"In addition to winners in each event, there will be an 'Ultimate Champion' competition in a pentathlon format, as well as a Chairman's Cup award for the top performing service branch," said Lewis.
NMCSD's eight participants include three Soldiers from NMCSD's Army Warrior Transition Unit, three Navy Medical Hold Sailors and two Marines from Wounded Warrior Battalion-West, NMCSD detachment.
The Warrior Games are organized by the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Olympic Committee, United Service Organization and Ride to Recovery. Navy Safe Harbor coordinates the athletes' participation in the Warrior Games as well as the purchase and maintenance of all the adaptive sports equipment.
For more information about the 2011 Warrior Games, visit the U.S. Olympic Committee website http://usparalympics.org/usoc-paralympic-military-program/warrior-games-presented-by-deloitte.
For more news from Naval Medical Center San Diego, visit www.navy.mil/local/sd/.