WASHINGTON (AFNS) --
The volleyball courts were clear as athletes made their way into the Pentagon Athletic Center. Some arrived in wheelchairs. Some were missing limbs. Many had wounds which couldn’t be seen. As they sat down on the court for warm-ups, they all had something in common…they were all wounded warriors.
About 50 wounded warriors participated in the joint-service Warrior CARE Sitting Volleyball Tournament here Nov. 17.
Several military leaders, including Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson, attended the event. Several of the leadership formed a team and pitted themselves against the wounded warriors, while James and Wilson had the opportunity to visit with troops.
“We’ve come a long way from the first Warrior Care Month back in November of 2008,” said Brig. Gen. Kathleen Cook, Air Force Services director, as she addressed the teams. “Over these last eight years, these events have brought our warriors and leadership together in ways that facilitated necessary, difficult and candid conversations that led to identifying gaps in processes and subsequent changes in policies. These actions represent a small portion of the Defense Department and its partners’ commitment to providing you, your families and caregivers with the care and support you deserve.”
While the event was hosted by the Air Force, it was truly a joint service event with competitors representing all services.
The event is more than just sports to the wounded warriors.
“[This] means a lot to me,” said Army Spc. Stephanie Morris, a patient at Walter Reed Medical Center. Morris was injured in 2013 in Afghanistan when her team took direct fire, including two back-to-back rocket-propelled grenades.
“Everybody’s out here and they want to win, but win or lose, all the camaraderie and all the bonds you build go further passed anything that this can offer, you are building relationships that are going to last lifetimes,” she said.
The tournament served as an opportunity for wounded warriors to show their strength and how far they have progressed in the healing process.
“It’s awesome, this gave me purpose – it pulled me out of depression,” said retired Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Shannon, who suffers from a traumatic brain injury received while serving as a radioman on a submarine. “It gives you that light to reach for.”
The tournament was part of the weeklong Warrior CARE Event, held primarily at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, where more than 75 wounded, ill or injured service members competed in adaptive sports and various activities aimed at healing the body and mind.
The Warrior CARE Event offered participants caregiver support and recovering Airmen mentorship, training and adaptive and rehabilitative sports training. CARE stands for:
C - Caregiver Support Program
A - Adaptive and Rehabilitative Sports Program
R - Recovering Airmen Mentorship Program
E - Employment and Career Readiness Program
For more information on Warrior CARE, click here