By Robin Hillyer-Miles, Fleet and Family Readiness Public Affairs
QUANTICO, Va. (NNS) -- The second day of the Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games competition kicked off early for Team Navy's archers on June 22, and concluded with two bronze medals.
The metal bleachers rang with cheers while seriously wounded, ill, and injured service members battled through several elimination rounds. Teams and individual archers were grouped according to the bows they used -- recurve or compound.
One of Team Navy's compound teams -- which included Navy Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class John Dusseau, Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Roel Espino, and retired Navy Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Adrian Mohammed -- brought home the bronze medal after a nail-biting finish and an emotional wait for the final results.
Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Jamie Byrd, one of three Coast Guard athletes on Team Navy, shined in the individual recurve competition. After hours of tough contention, Byrd advanced to the finals and won the bronze medal.
Later, as third seed in the wheelchair basketball bracket, Team Navy faced off against a worthy adversary in Team Air Force. The winner was slated to advance to the gold-medal match against the Marines.
Parents, spouses, children, friends, volunteers, and fellow athletes filled Barber Gym with screams of excitement. The teams showed their appreciation by zipping back and forth, trading baskets, and revving up the score. Team Navy won decisively with a final score of 44 to 27.
"Team Navy played an excellent game," said retired Navy Chief Gunner's Mate Hector Varela. "We showed heart and were aggressive. Now we just need to continue that momentum in the game for the gold." Varela joined the Navy in 1988 and said he enjoyed his naval career until he lost his left leg above the knee due to a motorcycle accident in 2012.
The game's highest-scoring player was retired Navy Chief Yeoman Javier Rodriguez Santiago, who put up 14 points throughout the game. His teammates turned in outstanding performances as well, making critical passes, rebounds and steals.
"We played great defense!" said retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sonny Lemerande. "Wounded warrior wheelchair basketball is a beneficial sport to me, as it allows me to compete on a professional level." After serving for more than nine years, Lemerande's Humvee was struck by a pressure plate anti-tank mine during his second combat deployment.
Thirty-nine seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors are competing on behalf of Team Navy this year. The Warrior Games are being held June 19-28 at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Approximately 250 wounded warrior athletes are participating in the competition.
Team Navy is sponsored by Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW)-Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program. Team members have upper-body injuries, lower-body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments, serious illnesses and/or post-traumatic stress.