2012 Warrior Games kick off, first lady speaks

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
  • Defense Media Activity
Hundreds of wounded warriors, family members and supporters gathered here for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Warrior Games on April 30.

The Warrior Games comprises seven sports -- swimming, cycling wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, archery, shooting and track and field -- in which injured, ill or wounded service members from each branch of service and the U.S. Special Operations Command will compete.

This year, the opening ceremony was held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. All of the athletic events will be held at the U.S. Air Force Academy, with the exception of shooting, which will be held at the training center.

More than 200 service members are expected to compete in the 2012 games.

"For me, these games embody the enduring resilience of our profession," said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey. "Your commitment to teamwork and dedication to persevere at these games are the very same qualities that led you to serve our nation. Those qualities don't go away."

The ceremony opened with playing of the national anthem and "God Save the Queen," the British national anthem. This is the first year British wounded warriors have participated in the games.

The anthems were followed by a flyover by F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Each service team walked down the Pathway of Champions and then a designated torch bearer from each team passed the torch to the next team until finally the honorary torch bearers lit the Warrior Games caldron.

Capt. Anthony Simone was the torch bearer for the Air Force team. He was assisted by Master Sgt. Christopher Aguilera. Simone and Aguilera are both survivors of a 2010 helicopter crash in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of five crewmembers.

"I was very honored, extremely honored," Simone said of being chosen as the Air Force torch bearer. "You know how the saying goes: 'You have to represent.'"

First lady Michelle Obama spoke at the ceremony, saying she was in awe of the perseverance of America's wounded warriors.

"As first lady, one of the best parts of my job is spending time with all of you," Obama said. "Whenever I visit Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center) or one of our military bases or talk with military families at the White House or anywhere for that matter, I get to hear the stories of your service and your sacrifices.

"I get to see your strength and determination up close," she said. "And you tell me you're not just going to walk again, but you're going to run and you're going to run marathons. No matter how seriously you're injured, no matter what obstacles or setbacks you face, you just keep moving forward. You just keep pushing yourselves to succeed in ways that mystify and leave us all in awe."

Other key speakers on hand to open the ceremony were Scott Blackmun, the U.S. Olympic Committee CEO, and Robin Lineberger, the Deloitte Federal Systems CEO.

The ceremony ended with the playing of each service song and a VIP reception for the athletes and family members at the Olympic Training Center.

The games will continue through the week and conclude May 5 with a ceremony at the Air Force Academy.