U.S., British wounded warriors compete in summer competition

  • Published
  • By Janis El Shabazz
  • Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs
Approximately 100 U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and British Armed Forces wounded warriors trained and competed in the second annual Wounded Warrior Summer Invitational Adaptive Sports Tournament at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, July 7-10.

The tournament included skills development and competition in wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. Attendance by Team USA Volleyball, the Paralympic sitting volleyball team, brought an additional layer of expertise and competition.

The British team won the volleyball competition and Air Force won the basketball challenge.

All tournament participants received commemorative certificates. The U.S. team presented the British warriors with a basketball customized with the Air Force Wounded Warrior logo and a red, white and blue volleyball -- signed by the entire American team in a display of sportsmanship and camaraderie.

"The adaptive sports camps bring together ill and injured wounded warriors who draw strength from the shared struggle on the journey to recovery," said Steve Otero, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program communications and marketing coordinator. "Utilizing physical activity as part of the rehabilitation process produces higher self-esteem, lower stress levels and lowers secondary medical conditions."

Some of the American warriors who competed in this event will also compete in the Invictus Games in London, England, Sept. 10-14. The Invictus Games is an international wounded warrior adaptive sports competition inspired by the American Warrior Games and launched by Great Britain's Prince Harry. Others are part of a 40-member team chosen to compete in the Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, Sept. 28-Oct. 4. For many of the competitors, this will be the final joint-training event before the Invictus Games.

"I am beyond honored and excited to have been invited to the Invictus Games," said retired Air Force Capt. Sarah Evans. "My teammates and I are training hard for this amazing competition and opportunity. I'm looking forward to proudly representing Team USA in England and starting the double-digit countdown!"

Evans lost her left leg to spindle cell sarcoma. As part of her rehabilitation, she trained for Warrior Games 2013 where she competed for the Ultimate Champion title, and won a bronze medal in swimming.

British Armed Forces veteran Charlie Walker, who is not only a sitting volleyball player but their coach as well, said, "The opportunity to come and train in the states with the Americans is amazing, and something that doesn't come along often. I love the fact that some British Armed Forces hopefuls have been invited over with Help for Heroes; after all, we fought with our allies, so it's only right that we play alongside them too."

Walker is a former explosive ordinance disposal technician with the Royal Logistics Corps who contracted meningitis in 2006, which eventually resulted in a double below-knee amputation. He was first introduced to sitting volleyball in 2009 when he took part in the Amputee Games at England's Stoke Mandeville Hospital. He subsequently represented Paralympics GB in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Otero, an Air Force wounded warrior, expressed pride in being part of the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.

"I have received my own health benefits from competing in adaptive sports. The opportunity to have our team train with their service counterparts and an international ally is such a special gift," Otero said. "In only two months we will all be walking together in England ready to fight for health, wellness and of course, national pride. Healing through sport is a concept that we all embrace, whether staff or athlete. It's a way of life."

For more information on the Wounded Warrior Program, visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil .