Four Warrior Transition Battalion Soldiers at Fort Benning have been training for the past three weeks to compete in the inaugural Warrior Games, a paralympic military program created by the Department of Defense and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The games are open to Soldiers with upper or lower body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.
Participants will compete from May 10-14 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Warrior Games include shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus and shot put.
SPC Chris Strickland, SGT Matthew Harvey and SPC Robert Nuss and SSG Ruben Rosas-Rodriguez train five hours a day, five days a week, in swimming and spinning at Smith Fitness Center, running stairs and on the track at Doughboy Stadium and shooting air pistols at Pool Indoor Shooting Range.
“The Soldiers have been training hard,” said SFC Ronald Black, who is training the Soldiers. “They are motivated and morale is great. They are getting out there, giving 110 percent and I can tell they are dedicated.”Black said the games are a great opportunity for wounded warriors.
“It’s the first time we can showcase our Soldiers’ abilities,” he said. “They can cope with their injuries and still show they can compete.”
SSG Danny Hill is also helping train the Fort Benning competitors.
“The games will show others that even though we are wounded physically or mentally, we are able to soldier on and do our best,” said Hill, who was injured by an IED in 2007 in Iraq.Hill said the games are therapeutic for the Soldiers, and for him.
“They push me and I push them to keep going,” Hill said.
More than 200 competitors from all branches of military competing in the games.Rosas-Rodriguez, who will run in the games, said he feels lucky to be chosen as one of 200.
“It’s a great feeling to know I will compete,” said the 55-year-old. “And it’s good to know there are other people there who I can relate to.”
Rodriguez was injured after being hit with shrapnel from a vehicle-borne IED in Afghanistan in 2009.
Strickland who lost his right lower leg after a motorcycle accident in 2008, said he is up to the challenge.
“This gives me something to work for,” the 23-year-old said. “I plan on winning the games.” Strickland will compete in swimming and seated volleyball. He said he is looking forward to hearing others’ stories and going to Colorado, because he has never been there before.
Harvey will compete as an “Ultimate Warrior,” which means he will run, swim and shoot. Harvey was injured more than once during several tours to Iraq. Harvey said winning isn’t a priority for him. It’s more about learning.“Whether we win or lose, it doesn’t matter. It’s a good learning experience to go out there and compete,” he said. “Every day’s challenging. You have to push yourself to continue, whether you are running stadiums or tracks, swimming or shooting.”
The Soldiers will continue training until they leave May 10.