Warrior Games welcomes new faces

  • Published
  • By Capt. George Tobias
  • Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
For the second year, the Warrior Games has returned here, bringing competition among all branches of the military and Coast Guard, during a week-long series of sporting events.

The Air Force Warrior Games team has seen many veterans return, but there are also many new faces joining them.

These newcomers spoke of a common theme of honor and camaraderie they felt while competing and representing the Air Force.

Retired Maj. Gwendolyn Sheppard was the Air Force torch bearer during the opening ceremony May 16.

"I never dreamed I would have such a wonderful feeling like that," she said about being selected by her teammates for the honor. "It was such a warm feeling."

Major Sheppard is not the only one to feel honored to be part to the team.

"I'm thrilled to be here," said retired Staff Sgt. Michael Rushton. "It feels like I'm giving back (to the Air Force.)"

While the team members met each other for the first time in San Antonio, they said the friendship they have built in a short period of time and the bonds they share as Air Force members is very real.

"There is no judgment here," said Sergeant Rushton, commenting on what he thought of the games. "The camaraderie here is great."

Major Sheppard also highlighted the camaraderie she felt with her fellow teammates.

"It has been absolutely amazing," she said.

On the first day of competition, she said she was feeling a bit nervous about competing, but her teammates were encouraging her, reminding her to stay loose, which eased her tension.

Retired Staff Sgt. Greg Miller noted that, "It's humbling to be here, and to meet other people with disabilities lets you know you are not the only one."

Throughout the competition, the team will be competing for the Air Force, but at the same time they will be competing with themselves to meet their own goals.

"We are all trying to overcome something," Major Sheppard said.

For Sergeant Miller, this will be the first time in a cycling competition, which will consist of an 18-mile race.

"I am going to do my best; I want to be able to finish," he said. "That would make me proud."

Sergeant Rushton commented that it is ultimately about the team, but it is also "about proving to myself what I can do, and the obstacles I have overcome."

Sergeant Rushton said it has been three years since his injury, after which his wife, Maj. Jacqueline Rushton, who is a nurse with the Army, had to help him get dressed.

Now, the Sergeant said, he is here competing in track and field, cycling and swimming.

"I would not be here today if it was not for my wife," he said.

When it is all said and done, this year's Warrior Games competition will not be about the number of medals won or records set, the team members said. It will be about the friendships made and the personal challenges overcome.

For event schedules and more information about the 2011 Warrior Games, go to www.usparalympics.org or www.woundedwarrior.af.mil.