Warrior Games gives veterans a new purpose through sports

Prior to this month's Warrior Games, Air Force Lt. Nicky Evenson demonstrates sitting volleyball at a media event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.  (Courtney Kiefer/Warrior Games)

Prior to this month’s Warrior Games, Air Force Lt. Nicky Evenson demonstrates sitting volleyball at a media event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. (Courtney Kiefer/Warrior Games)

ORLANDO, FL — Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston has always enjoyed being part of a team.

As such, he played the sport growing up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and ran track for two years at Bowie State University in Maryland. That’s why he later enlisted in the Marine Corps. So after amputating his left leg below the knee, he started his sport Adaptive.

“The para community is probably the most supportive,” Hairston said. “When I was in track and field and football, I wasn’t giving away trade secrets or trying to help the competition. But then you show up in [para]bike racing, and you guys are more than happy to help you on your journey, helping you learn as much as you can and get better. it will be better. ”

Hairston is one of about 250 to 300 military personnel who will participate in the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games this month. He competes in handcycling, track, powerlifting, archery, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby.

The Warrior Games are events where former and active military personnel compete in adaptive sports. This year’s game will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort from Friday through August 28th. The purpose of this competition is to strengthen the rehabilitation of injured fighters through athletics.

The first match was held in 2010 and most recently in 2019 in Tampa. This is because both his 2020 and 2021 matches have been canceled due to his COVID-19 pandemic. Games leadership (originally run by the U.S. Olympic Committee, but was taken over by the Department of Defense in 2015; the 2022 Games are hosted by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) and the type of sport Year after year, Warrior Games’ missions have remained the same.

Warrior Games spokesperson Travis Crater said: “Our mission is to support wounded, sick and wounded servicemen through their journeys of recovery.

There will be five teams competing: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and U.S. Special Operations Command. Each team handles the selection process differently, but they all select athletes through a sort of tryout process, according to Claytor.

Hairston was named to this year’s Warrior Games after making her adaptive sports debut in New York’s Central Park last June. It’s only five months after he had his left leg amputated in an accident. He was hit by a car while returning home from his assignment on January 23rd.

“After losing a leg and being in a wheelchair for a year, it was the first time I actually felt like myself again,” Hairston said. “So I think that’s what stuck with me. The moment he saw that was cycling well, he asked me to join the team.

Hairston explained that recovery is often an individual effort. Focusing on himself to heal felt inconsistent with his identity as a Marine with an emphasis on camaraderie, so joining the Marine Corps was one of his highlights this month. I’m looking forward to my turn.

Ventures that save lives

Air Force Capt. Nicky Evenson discovered adaptive sports through the chapter’s wounded soldier program. She pursued every event she competed in in her Warrior game, including archery, precision shooting, and cycling, and was drawn to competitive opportunities. Evenson says he enjoys immersing himself in the basics of shooting and getting away from it all on a cycling trip.

She had multiple surgeries since 2019, suffered a non-combat traumatic brain injury, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but adaptive sports saved her life. Among her teammates and competitors, Evenson said she found a group where she could be herself.

“I don’t like being vulnerable, but being around them makes me feel like I can,” she said. Don’t show your madness and imperfections, but in it you can show those vulnerabilities and you are still accepted.It’s beautiful.”

Meaning for family

Mark Coltrane, a retired Navy retired sergeant, was due to compete in the 2021 Warrior Games before it was cancelled. For him, the 2022 game will almost be the culmination of his two years of intense training. He will compete in wheelchair basketball, seated volleyball, discus, shot put, and archery.

During training surgery in 2019, Coltrane’s aorta “decided to give up,” he said, and he had “several strokes.” it was done. His stroke left him with partial vision loss and mild cognitive impairment, including short-term memory loss, so he had to retire.

Coltrane said of his state of mind before he found adaptive sports, “I thought of the rest of my life as having no purpose or identity.” , the Navy will always be part of your identity,’ and there are still things you can do for the Navy and for the United States without actually actively serving.”

A native of Edgewater, Florida, Coltrane is looking forward to his family watching his game at Disney. His wife, Riley, their three children (Thea, Freya, and Koa), and his wife’s parents attend. He’s looking forward to seeing him pursue the passion that gave him his goal.

“Programs like this are why kids get their fathers back, wives get their husbands back, and husbands get their wives back,” Coltrane said. [people] It’s about knowing how important it is not just for athletes and military personnel, but for the whole family. ”

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