Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Phil Breedlove chats with Cadet Matthew Pirrello May 21, 2011, after a wheelchair basketball game at the 2011 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J. Paul Croxon)
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Phil Breedlove congratulates Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro March 21, 2011, after he competed in the men's recumbent bicycle competition at the 2011 Warrior Games. The bicycle race was held at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J. Paul Croxon)
by Capt. Mary Danner-Jones
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
5/24/2011 - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFNS) -- The 2011 Warrior Games officially came to an end here May 21 following closing ceremonies.
The Air Force team, consisting of 23 wounded Airmen, earned 12 medals at the event.
But for the athletes, the games were not just about medals. The Warrior Games were an opportunity for the current and former service members to incorporate athletic training as a part of their overall transition and recovery plan.
"The purpose of these games is to build our confidence and to help us move on to bigger and better things," said retired Senior Airman Matthew Bilancia.
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Phil Breedlove visited the games to meet with the participants and watch them compete.
"These are great people who have served their country well, and that certainly takes a certain amount of physical ability, stamina and guts," General Breedlove said. "Now they are in the middle of recovery from something traumatic, and sports allows them to find that same stamina, motivation and guts to move forward in their lives."
Additionally, the Warrior Games helps ensure the athletes know they are still valued members of the Air Force family, he said.
This was definitely true for retired Staff Sgt. Jeanne Goldy-Sanitate, who said her goals for participating in the games were to be part of a team and to continue to contribute to the Air Force.
"I'm proud to have served and to still be part of the Air Force," she said.
As the 2011 Warrior Games came to a close, many of the athletes said they were already looking to the 2012 games.
"As the Warrior Games continue to grow, I hope they become a way for more wounded service members to heal," Sergeant Goldy-Sanitate said. "I also hope these games become an event for the nation and not just an event for us athletes."
General Breedlove said it was important for those who attended to tell others about the incredible athletes who compete in the games.
"We have to go back and carry the message of the bravery and courage of these troops," General Breedlove said. "They have sacrificed in ways that many of us will never understand, and now it's our turn to support them more than ever."