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May 12, 2010

Warrior Olympics

I can't believe I just found out about this. The DoD is hosting the first ever Warrior Olympics for over 200 wounded American heroes at the Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs.

The opening ceremonies were held on Monday with all due pomp and ceremony.

(I moved the video below the fold because I think it was hanging up the site as it loads)

As you can imagine, the military as whole is made of pretty competitive individuals. That doesn't change just because they have suffered serious wounds. In fact, it seems to bring it out even more in many vets.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacque Keeslar had both legs blown off when the Stryker vehicle in which he was manning a .50-caliber machine gun hit a roadside bomb in Rawah, Iraq, in June 2006.

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Cheramie lost his left leg below the knee when he stepped on a bomb while on patrol in Now Zad, Afghanistan, in December 2008.

... Keeslar, 40, will compete in swimming events, shotput and wheelchair basketball. Cheramie, 21, is set to swim the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle and 50-meter breast stroke.

Cheramie has been a patient at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Keeslar is a platoon sergeant at the barracks for wounded and injured personnel receiving therapy at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, which is sending 10 athletes (one sailor, seven soldiers, two Marines) to the games.

Both centers specialize in the use of prosthetics and in guiding personnel back to active lifestyles through sports. In San Diego, the center has classes in archery, scuba diving, rock-climbing, volleyball, kayaking, surfing and more.

"It's that competitive thing," Keeslar said. "It's very healing."

Cheramie said he hopes to serve as a role model for other military personnel.

"I want to show them it's not over just because you've been injured," Cheramie said in a telephone interview. "Everybody goes through that 'I'm ugly, nobody will love me, I'm stuck in a wheelchair' depression. You have to move on."

Mark Seavey of the American Legion turned me on to this story and he's at the games. I wrote to him saying it must be motivating to be there. His response, "It's the greatest thing ever".

God knows these men and women deserve all of this and more.

More at the Legion's BurnPit blog.

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posted by DrewM. at 06:44 PM

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