Warrior Games kick off Wednesday at West Point

Track competition at the Warrior Games, June 28, 2015 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.



WASHINGTON – When the Warrior Games kick off Wednesday on the historic grounds of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. some 250 injured and ill servicemembers and veterans will begin their gold medal quests in eight adaptive sports.

But for the people who have spent the last year preparing for the first Army-sponsored Warrior Games, the event is about much more than winning, said Col. Thomas Sutton, the planning and operations chief for Army Warrior Transition Command, which led the games’ preparations.

“It’s really about these athletes and their families who have overcome so much adversity,” Sutton said. “It’s about recognizing these men and women and continuing to build awareness and understanding – bringing into the spotlight their resiliency.”

The 2016 Warrior Games, the second games planned by the Defense Department and the sixth annual event, will run through June 21. The events include sitting volleyball, track and field, archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting and swimming.

Adaptive sports are a major part of the military’s programs to help injured troops rehabilitate as they transition back into service or into civilian life. Often athletics help the servicemembers gain confidence and, for many of them, provide an activity they can compete in the rest of their lives, Sutton said.

West Point was the obvious choice for the Army to host the games, he said.

In addition to the academy’s scenic backdrop among the hills along the Hudson River and rich history, it already had NCAA Division I-level athletic facilities available, Sutton said. He hopes it might set a precedent for future Warrior Games to be held at service academies, as the military branches take turns hosting.

The Warrior Games will kick-off Wednesday evening with an opening ceremony at the academy’s Shea Stadium, including a demonstration by the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, and a performance by the West Point Band. It will be emceed by popular comedian and activist Jon Stewart, who volunteered to participate in the games, Sutton said.

Stewart’s involvement, he added, is “a big deal” for the Warrior Games because his name brings added attention to event.

“Jon Stewart is a huge advocate for the military and a strong supporter of our wounded warriors,” Sutton said. “… More than anything else, at the end of the day I think his involvement and support means a lot to these athletes.”

Other celebrities, including Olympic athletes and professional football and basketball players, are expected to attend the games, Sutton said.

The Army team will look to defend the title it grabbed last year at the Marine Corps-sponsored Warrior Games in Quantico, Va. when it won 162 total medals including 69 gold.

And while a second consecutive Commander’s Cup victory for the Army team would be satisfying on their home grounds at West Point, Sutton said he finds the individual accomplishments of the athletes much more rewarding.

“The thing I look forward to the most, that I particularly enjoy are the personal triumphs,” he said. “It’s the guy who never thought he’d walk again out there running or someone setting a new personal record … That something truly special, and you can see it when they pump their fists and you can see it their eyes.”

Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

How to watch:

Admission to the 2016 Warrior Games on June 15 through June 21 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. is free and open to the public. Spectators are not required to register to attend, but pre-access registration is encouraged to skip long lines at the academy’s entrance gates. People who plan to attend can register online at warriorgames.dodlive.mil.

Key events, including the gold medal sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball games, and the opening and closing ceremonies will be streamed online at warriorgames.dodlive.mil.

Schedule of events:

June 15 – Sitting volleyball, 8 a.m.; Opening Ceremony, 6 p.m.

June 16 – Track and Field, 8 a.m.; Field medals ceremony, 6 p.m.

June 17 – Archery, 8 a.m.; Track and Archery, medals ceremony, 6 p.m.

June 18 – Cycling, 8 a.m.; Wheelchair basketball, 2 p.m.

June 19 – Shooting, 8 a.m.; Cycling medals, 6 p.m.

June 20 –Swimming, 8 a.m.; Shooting and Swimming, medals ceremony, 6 p.m.

June 21 – Sitting volleyball gold medal game, 1 p.m.; Wheelchair basketball gold medal game, 3 p.m., Closing Ceremony, 6:30 p.m.

Anthony McDaniel of the Marine Corps team, on his way to one of his three gold medals in track competition at the Warrior Games, June 28, 2015 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

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