Sunday, May 12, 2013

Navy Warrior Games Vet Shares His Story, Recovery

By Jason Kelly
Navy Live Blog

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2013 – Yesterday, members of Team Navy began sports competitions at the 2013 Warrior Games against other wounded, ill or injured service members and veterans from across the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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Retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sonny Lemerande, who’d served as a hospital corpsman and was wounded in Afghanistan, puts up a shot during basketball practice for the Navy's Warrior Games basketball team at State College, Pa., April 4, 2013 U.S. Navy photo by EJ Hersom

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Throughout the event, which concludes May 16, the service members and veterans will compete for the gold in adaptive sports of track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.

Warrior Games wheelchair basketball athlete and retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sonny Lemerande, who’d served as a hospital corpsman and was wounded in Afghanistan, shares his story, his recovery, and what the Warrior Games mean to him.

Lemerande’s comments are as follows:

“This year marks my fourth Warrior Games. Once again, I will compete alongside other members of Team Navy in Colorado Springs. I have been part of the Warrior Games from the start. Every experience has been a big honor and very rewarding.

“However, it was the first Warrior Games in 2010 that made the most significant impact on my life.

“In 2009, during my second deployment as a Navy corpsman, I was wounded in Afghanistan. My Humvee hit a pressure plate anti-tank mine, injuring my right leg. Although I didn’t feel the effects until I returned home, my experiences in combat changed me and later brought about post-traumatic stress disorder. My wounds -- both visible and invisible -- still affect me today.

“A year after the incident, I was working a physical therapist in Twentynine Palms, Calif. I was pretty bitter. Every day, I met with service members who were ill or had been injured, but I thought anyone who wasn’t wounded in combat wasn’t truly a wounded warrior. I thought their struggles couldn’t really compare to what men and women were experiencing on the battlefield -- that made me angry.

“The 2010 Warrior Games were very beneficial to me. They opened my eyes and helped me let go of some of those feelings. I met teammates -- like Jim Castaneda -- who altered my perspective about what it means to be a wounded warrior and to fight each day to make sure your illness or injury doesn’t get the better of you.

“Jimmy is a retired boatswain’s mate who suffered a stroke while his ship was underway near the Philippines. Though his recovery has sometimes been pretty tough, he always has a positive attitude no matter what obstacles he has to face. Jimmy cracks me up. I will never forget when he was playing seated volleyball at the Warrior Games -- he unexpectedly blocked a very hard spike and then was completely amazed by what he had done.

“That’s what the Warrior Games are like. They are a great rehabilitation tool for wounded warriors. They remind you that life’s not over just because you are ill or were injured. They show you that you can still surprise yourself.

“Adaptive athletics and programs like Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor have helped me cope. When things get difficult, attending the Warrior Games or a sports camp is a respite from life’s stresses. There, I can hang out with people who really understand me, and who have supported me for four of the most challenging years of my life.

“For that, I am so grateful.”

Niagara recieves artwork honoring military heritage

by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Caya
914th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/9/2013 - NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. -- A new display honoring American Veterans is slated to be added to the Heritage Room in the community activity center here.

Created by Vietnam Veteran Dan DeCrow, the piece titled "Never Forget Silhouette" pays respect to the war dead and veterans World War I to the present.

The silhouette has items representing the major conflicts of the last 100 years. An entrenching tool of World War I; pants bloused in boots and a canteen, symbolic of World War II; the type of helmet service members wore in the Korean War; and the M-16 carried by those in the jungles of Vietnam. The Silhouette is paying respect to the Kevlar helmet on top of a modern M-16 which symbolizes those who fought and died in the current War on Terror. Finally, there are empty dog tags, symbolizing the lack of space for the names of the men and women who died fighting for this country.

This is just one of many signs that DeCrow has made. When he completes them, he donates them to families who have lost loved ones in support of the nation's defense.

"This particular sign was donated to the Niagara Falls ARS through the local chapter of the Patriot Riders motorcycle club, as they wanted the sign to have maximum visibility with current military members," said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Roach, 914th Services superintendent.

The Patriot Riders escorted the artwork to the base where a dedication ceremony held in the community activity center .

DeCrow's brother in-law, Dan Walsh, also a Vietnam Veteran, provided the original materials and equipment for Decrow's memorials.

"Sometimes people see these memorials and purchase them," said Walsh. "When they do, every cent is put back into making more memorials."

"This piece will be great to have in the heritage room in the community activity center," said Roach. "We are now trying to collect items like this and display them for the military heritage, not just Niagara, but for all U.S. Military."

"It's great that this artwork is going to be displayed in an area where Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines can view it regularly," said Walsh.

Winnefeld Praises Athletes at Warrior Games' Kick Off

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2013 – The 200 wounded, injured, and ill service members and veterans competing in this year’s Warrior Games are the best of the best, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today during the event’s opening ceremonies in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. speaks to the athletes and their families during the opening ceremonies of the 2013 Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 11, 2013. From May 11-16, more than 200 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from the U.S. Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy, as well as a team representing U.S. Special Operations Command and an international team representing the United Kingdom, will compete for the gold in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and U.S. Air Force Academy. The military service with the most medals will win the Chairman's Cup. Photo by EJ Hersom

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Winnefeld called the games, comprising volleyball, wheelchair basketball, archery, swimming, cycling, shooting, track and field including discus and shot put events, the “highlight of the year” in his keynote remarks. The games run through May 16 at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic Training Center, both in Colorado Springs.

“You're here because of your willingness to overcome great challenges … of injury [and] illness, both seen and unseen, coupled with the challenges that any superior athlete must overcome in achieving greatness,” Winnefeld told the athletes.

This is the third year Winnefeld has provided opening or closing remarks for the Warrior Games, but he remains awed by the athletes and their challenges, he said.

“Your heroism and determination are an inspiration,” he said to the athletes. “… When I face a seemingly insurmountable challenge, I just think of you, and my day becomes a very nice day.”

Winnefeld expressed his appreciation to Britain’s Prince Harry for attending the games. He was among those on the stage, and was dressed in his British army camouflage uniform.

"We’re so grateful that you brought your fellow warriors from the United Kingdom to be in these games,” Winnefeld told the prince. “We thank the United Kingdom for being such fantastic partners in combat, from one warrior to another.”

The general also credited the United Kingdom for conceiving and hosting last summer’s London 2012 Paralympic Games, in which U.S. service members also competed.

The vice chairman recognized “other elite groups of people” in the audience -- the athletes’ families, friends, caregivers.

Winnefeld also praised “the spouses, moms, dads and siblings who unselfishly dropped everything else in their lives to become dedicated caregivers. It’s very hard work, is often overlooked, and you are very special people.”

The athletes and the games become better each year because of the volunteers, hosts and sponsors, “without whom these events simply would not be possible,” Winnefeld said.

“What you're doing is powerful, and very important,” he added.

Addressing the British and American teams, Winnefeld noted that the Warrior Games embody the “magnificent cause of freedom and liberty.” Each athlete at the games is already a winner, he added.

“Compete ferociously, fairly, safely, and pick each other up. That's what these games are all about,” he said, adding that the athletes should compete with the Olympic ideals of excellence, respect and friendship constantly on their minds.

“And yes, may the best team win, but remember, we're all on the incredibly great, same team,” Winnefeld said.