We’re in the heat of Warrior Games 2014 in Colorado Springs! This is my second time competing, and, for me, Warrior Games is a bit like Christmas. First and foremost, we – disabled U.S. veterans – get to spend a full week with one another – some of our favorite people. After reconnecting with and meeting the members of the other teams and hearing their stories this week, Team Navy is overwhelmed with respect and admiration.
Everyone has unique challenges, but the Warrior Games mark a special time of year when our community joins together to rise above whatever issues we’re facing. It’s a refuge where we are identified by who we are individually, beyond the “disabled” or “military” labels we often hear.
For many of us, our lives were irrevocably changed after our injuries or diagnoses, and rehabilitation initially seemed unattainable. In military adaptive sports, however, we are reminded that our best days are still ahead, and we learn resiliency skills that carry us through tough times. We have an opportunity to redefine ourselves as we participate in sports that we love. At Warrior Games, we celebrate what we can achieve together after facing our worst-case scenarios.
Warrior Games 2014 is devoid of any flashy international celebrities or extremely high-profile politicians. It is completely centered our tight-knit network, which includes veteran support organizations, Reservists, family and friends, and active-duty military.
So far, we have faced the most challenging cycling course I’ve seen in 10 years. Despite having trained on longer courses with more elevation gains, I almost couldn’t complete this year’s course. Between the challenging topography and elevation, the course was almost too much for someone like me to handle – someone who has been diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease. I kept telling myself it was more a mental battle than anything else, but the physical repercussions were far too real.
Still, the best moment for me in two Warrior Games took place on that cycling course. Two competitors from SOCOM and the Marine Corps teams decided that the three of us should finish together. They coaxed me through the most difficult parts of the course, including a hill so steep that I worried about rolling backwards. My teammates and coaches cheered “ pain is temporary!” and “its like pedaling through hummus!” on the worse part of the hill.
During the quiet, lonelier parts of the course – free of spectators – it was my military sisters on the SOCOM and Marine Corps teams who slowed down to talk to me. Just as in life with any kind of disability, the lonelier parts of the course were the hardest. We rolled through the finish side by side, wearing the colors of three teams. Warrior Games is the highlight of the year for many, where we find the camaraderie and togetherness that sustain us through the challenges that lie ahead.