Third Annual Warrior Games Test Soldiers' Skill, Training, Endurance

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First lady Michelle Obama speaks during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photograph courtesy of U.S. Air Force, Val Gempis.

More than 200 wounded, ill, and injured servicemen and servicewomen competed in the third annual Warrior Games at the United States Olympic Training Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy grounds in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 30–May 5.

Presented by Deloitte and hosted by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the Warrior Games featured competition in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball. Athletes were selected from the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Special Operations.

"We are excited to welcome our service members and veterans back to Colorado Springs for the third annual competition," said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. "These games exemplify the fighting spirit within every one of these athletes, all who have sacrificed for our great country."

Athletes with the Marine Corps and Army joke with each other moments before competing against each other during the swimming portion of the 2012 Warrior Games. Photograph courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler.

More than 1,600 people gathered to watch the Warrior Games opening ceremonies. For the first time, 21 members of the British Armed Forces were invited to participate and compete in archery, cycling, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

Britain's Royal Marines Captain Simon Maxwell, an Afghanistan war veteran, was selected as an honorary torchbearer for the event's opening ceremony alongside Iraqi war veteran Army First Lieutenant Melissa Stockwell, CP. Stockwell was the first American female soldier wounded in Iraq when her convoy vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Baghdad in April 2004. She lost her left leg above the knee as a result of the explosion. Maxwell joined the Royal Marines in 2009 and was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan in April 2011, where he served as a troop commander. He was wounded on patrol in August of 2011 when he stepped on an IED, which led to the loss of his left leg below the knee. Together, the pair lit the cauldron to start the event.

The 2012 Warrior Games also had a presidential flair, as First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the warriors during the opening ceremonies. She paid tribute to the athletes and applauded them for their courage. She wished them the "best of luck" during the competition. "But most importantly," she told the athletes, "don't get hurt and remember to have fun."

Cyclists compete in the bicycle physical disability race at the Air Force Academy during the 2012 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photograph courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Heidi Agostini.

Though all warriors came to the games to compete, each had a unique story for why they were there, such as Army Specialist Jasmine Perry. She is a recovering soldier at the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Warrior Transition Unit. She was injured during a training accident in May 2005 at Fort Carson, Colorado. Her left leg was amputated below the knee as a result of her injury. Perry said she was active in sports before her injury, but that changed after her accident. A single word was keeping her from competition—adaptive.

"The word 'adaptive' to me makes me feel different," she said. "And I didn't want to feel different." That changed when Perry went to the Center for the Intrepid, San Antonio, Texas, where she saw soldiers with injuries far worse than hers. "They strapped me into a wheelchair, got me playing wheelchair basketball," she said. Scoring a few points helped to boost her ego, and that was all she needed. This is Perry's second Warrior Games.

In 2011 and in 2010, the Marines walked away with the Games' top award, the Chairman's Cup, for winning the most medals. This year was no exception—the Marines again took the Chairman's Cup with 89 medals. The Army followed with 63 medals.

Dates for the 2013 Warrior Games have not been set.

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