Sunday, June 03, 2018

Senior Military Leaders, Celebrities Signal Start of DoD Warrior Games

By Shannon Collins, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Senior military leaders and celebrities teamed up to signal the official start of the 2018 DoD Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium here yesterday.

Comedian Jon Stewart, joined by singer Kelly Clarkson, introduced Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the event’s opening ceremony.

This year’s Warrior Games competitions began June 1 and conclude June 9. About 300 wounded, ill and injured service members representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command, along with allied armed forces from the United Kingdom, Australia, and for the first time at Warrior Games, Canada, are competing in shooting, archery, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, powerlifting, time trial cycling and indoor rowing.

Stewart told the audience that he’d once shared a global USO tour with Selva.

“We went on a C-17. I would like for you to finish the inside of it. It was really loud and uncomfortable. But then when we got to Afghanistan, they put us on a C-130. Apologize for saying anything mean about the C-17,” Stewart, a son of a Vietnam veteran, said, eliciting laughs from the athletes and fans in the crowd. “You know what sounds a lot cooler than it sounds -- a combat landing. Halfway through, when my buttocks were in my ear, well, it was truly an honor.”

Stewart said he noticed that Selva cares very much about service members and their families.

“You are his family. He cares so deeply about every service person out there and their families and what they do,” Stewart said of Selva. “And, he and his wife are just the most impressive and loving and loyal couple you could ever hope to be around.”

For Selva, being at Falcon Stadium was a return home. Thirty-eight years ago, Selva said, he and his wife, Rickie, marched into the stadium and 90 minutes later, left as second lieutenants.

Selva said a group of volunteers put together the first Warrior Games in Colorado Springs eight years ago. “Their vision was to demonstrate the toughness and the resiliency of the men and women of our armed forces, and they did a fine job,” he said. “The games haven’t changed much since. They’ve gotten a little more spectacular but the heart of these games is these 300 men and women who sit in front of me tonight -- our athletes. You are all special, and we all owe you a debt of gratitude.”

Selva and his wife visited with the athletes at the track and field medal matches. “We got to meet Ross, Ben, Rafael and Abbie, four of the athletes who are giving their all,” he said. They have conquered challenges you and I would think are insurmountable. I’m humbled to be in their presence. All of you are an inspiration for the rest of us.”

Selva said the highlight of his and Rickie’s day was spending time with the athletes’ families and seeing and hearing the parents’, spouses’ and children’s pride and confidence in their athletes’ accomplishments.

“They just exude that pride and confidence. They talk about your coaches, caregivers, friends and the people who trained with you -- the men and women who made this possible,” Selva said. “They brag about you. To all the athletes, thank you for being an inspiration. This week is all about sportsmanship and camaraderie. It’s about making friends. It’s about being the heroes that you are.”

Lighting the Torch

Stewart and retired Air Force Master Sgt. Shanon Hampton practiced teamwork during the torch lighting. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr., a 2010 inaugural games athlete, began the torch passing to representatives of each branch of the service until Hampton had the flame for the big cauldron on the stage. As Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein told him to light the cauldron, he reached up to light it but strong winds prevented him from doing so.

Goldfein announced the official opening of the 2018 DoD Warrior Games but Stewart jumped in, getting an assist from stage support for a ladder. A stage hand lit the torch.

“Done -- we are open for business,” Stewart said.

Hampton said he was honored to carry the torch. “It is difficult to put into words the honor I was given to carry the torch for the Air Force and the Warrior Games. To once again serve with the Air Force, with my teammates, for my country and for God will be a memory I will cherish the rest of my life,” Hampton said. “We all have faced trials, hardship and heartache to get where we are at, but some things are just worth hurting for. Go Air Force!”

Army Staff Sgt. Altermese Kendrick, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, at the Garrison Chaplain Family Life Training Center, also served as a torchbearer.

“It was the largest honor I could’ve imagined,” she said.


Goldfein said the DoD Warrior Games represent the power of the human spirit. “There’s this old saying, ‘Age wrinkles the body but quitting wrinkles the soul,’” he said. “And while all of us grow older, not all of us grow stronger as we age. The athletes we celebrate this week show us how to grow stronger over time as they conquer the daily challenges in mind, in body, in spirit.

Warrior Games athletes are not “defined by illness, injury or the invisible wounds of war,” Goldfein said. “They’re defined by their courage, their determination, their grit, their resilience and their friends and family who cheer them on here and at home.”

He added, “Every athlete’s story is unique and deeply personal, built with common threads of strength and resilience. And these Warrior Games allow all of us, from both here and watching from home to recommit that no warrior takes the road to recovery alone. Family, friends and caregivers -- we’re on your wing for life. It’s a full contact team sport. And within the profession of arms it’s family business.”

Goldfein also announced a new DoD Warrior Games tradition and presented an official DoD Warrior Games flag to Air Force Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, commander of the DoD Warrior Games this year.


“It’s a true honor for us and an incredible opportunity to be with everybody from northern America and the international service,” said torchbearer Royal Canadian Air Force Warrant Officer Yves Lacasse. “It’s a real brotherhood. On the first day, Marine Corps, U.K., Air Force, Socom, even if you didn’t know the guy, everybody gives hugs, shakes hands. We share the same stories. We live the same lives. We meet the first day, and it’s like we already know each other.”

“We’re so excited, and we feel really lucky to be here. We’re pumped to do our best, and the results don’t matter as long as we do our best,” Australian Navy Leading Seaman Vanessa Broughill said.

This is Broughill’s first Warrior Games. “It’s such an amazing and inspirational experience,” she said. She went to the U.S. Navy trials in Florida.

“I made friends with them back in Florida, and some of them feel like family now. I just can’t believe how amazing this is,” Broughill said.

She said she hopes to make the Invictus Games team. But if she doesn’t, she’ll be there to support.

Team Army has a “heart for winning, a heart for camaraderie, a heart for representing Army, still Army strong,” said Kendrick, who has been selected for the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia, in October.

“I’m making friends so we know who to meet up with when we get over there; it’s going to be great,” she said. “We’re cheering on Australia regardless of whether we’re competing against them or not, so we’re their support system here at the games.”

Clarkson, Concert

Clarkson said she was honored to return to the Warrior Games to perform a free concert for the athletes and their families.

“It was such a blessing to do the first one. It’s such an honor. Thank you so much for your service,” she said. “Thank your families for the sacrifice that you all make.

Stewart earlier had jumped with the Air Force’s Wings of Blue parachute team and joked about his trouble keeping his breakfast down.

Goldfein joked, “Thank you Jon Stewart for joining the Wings of Blue and jumping out of a perfectly good airplane today. I just hope we were able to replace the breakfast you lost on the way down.”

This is Stewart’s third year as host of the Warrior Games.

Athletes at the Warrior Games “will go to any lengths for their teammates, for the victory, and I hope you’re not here just to support them but to learn from them,” Stewart told the opening ceremony audience.

“Whenever I spend time with the athletes at the Warrior Games,’ he added, “I hope that just a fraction of their tenacity, their honor, their grace, their resilience and their teamwork will inspire me to do better in my life every day.”

The Warrior Games was created in 2010 as an introduction to adaptive sports and reconditioning activities for service members and veterans.

The U.S. Olympic Committee led and organized the Warrior Games from 2010 to 2014, hosting them each year in Colorado Springs. In 2015, the DoD assumed responsibility for planning and organizing the Warrior Games, having a service branch host the games each year.

The Marines hosted in 2015 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, and then handed it off to Army at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. The Navy hosted last year in Chicago, near its basic training center.

Adaptive sports and reconditioning are linked to a variety of benefits for wounded, ill and injured service members across all branches of the military. Benefits include less stress, reduced dependency on pain and depression medication, fewer secondary medical conditions, higher achievement in education and employment and increased independence, self-confidence and mobility.

Mattis, Indo-Pacific Partners Discuss Security Issues at Singapore Summit

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and his Indo-Pacific regional counterparts discussed security issues during a series of meetings at the 2018 International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, according to officials.

Mattis, Japan Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera and South Korea Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo today convened the 10th Trilateral Defense Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, where they held discussions on North Korea, the regional security situation and trilateral security cooperation, according to a statement.

The three ministers welcomed the results of the two recent inter-Korean Summits, to include the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” and noted the positive changes that have been brought about are setting favorable conditions for the U.S.-North Korea Summit. They expressed their hopes that the upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit will contribute to comprehensively resolving matters of security and humanitarian concerns for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, and to this end, pledged to strengthen security cooperation among the three countries.

The three leaders welcomed North Korea’s recent announcement to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, as well as steps to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. The ministers agreed to remain united in support of the ongoing diplomatic efforts in the pursuit of the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They also agreed to continue enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The leaders welcomed sustained international cooperation to deter, disrupt, and ultimately eliminate illicit activities, such as illegal ship-to-ship transfers. They noted that should North Korea come into full compliance with its international obligations, it would dramatically improve the security and prosperity of the North Korean people. The three leaders noted that multilateral security cooperation led by the three countries plays an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

The leaders also committed to continuing existing security cooperation, including information sharing, high-level policy consultation, combined exercises, and other exchanges, by using trilateral or multilateral mechanisms. They also discussed other regional security issues, including the importance of maritime security and the maintenance of a rules-based order, and reaffirmed that freedom of navigation and overflight must be ensured, and that all disputes should be resolved in a peaceful manner in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law.

In addition, the three leaders shared the recognition that military-level confidence-building among countries in the region is important, and committed to strengthening cooperation to institutionalize such efforts. The United States reaffirmed its ironclad security commitments to South Korea and Japan, and pledged to continue to work closely together for peace and stability in the region and around the world.

Trilateral Defense Ministerial

Yesterday in Singapore, Mattis, Onodera and Australian Minister for Defense Marise Payne convened a trilateral defense ministerial meeting, according to a statement. They discussed the Indo-Pacific region, North Korea and trilateral defense cooperation. This was the seventh meeting among the three nations’ top defense officials. The ministers affirmed the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, and the key role Australia, Japan and the United States play in upholding a free, prosperous, inclusive, and open international order.

The leaders articulated the shared principles of respect for sovereignty, promotion of free and fair trade and investment, and adherence to international rules and norms. They reaffirmed their strong support for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its central role in the regional architecture.

The three leaders remain concerned regarding the ongoing situation in the South China Sea. The ministers underscored their shared respect for international law as well as their shared commitment to upholding freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea, including in the South China Sea. They emphasized the importance of the peaceful resolution of conflict in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and expressed strong opposition to the use of force or coercion as well as unilateral action to alter the status quo, and to the use of disputed features for military purposes in the South China Sea.

The ministers reiterated the importance of the conclusion of an effective and meaningful Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China. The ministers agreed to remain united to support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to achieve complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs. They also agreed to continue enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The ministers welcomed sustained international cooperation to deter, disrupt, and ultimately eliminate illicit activities, such as illegal ship-to-ship transfers.

The ministers recognized the importance of further increasing the three countries’ cooperation in the region, with a view to maximizing the opportunities for defense engagement. They affirmed their determination to draft a strategic action agenda that would provide a long term vision for trilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. The ministers acknowledged the close defense relationship of the three countries, and agreed to increase synergies of both bilateral and trilateral cooperation and coordination on regional efforts such as maritime capacity building, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and peacekeeping support.

Defense Ministerial Meeting

Also yesterday in Singapore, Mattis and his South Korean counterpart convened a defense ministerial meeting and held discussions on coordination measures relevant to the current security situation on the Korean Peninsula and key U.S.-South Korea alliance issues, according to a statement. The secretary and the minister welcomed the results of the two recent inter-Korean Summits, to include the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” and noted that positive changes that have been brought about are setting favorable conditions for the U.S.-North Korea Summit.

They agreed that in addition to strong international enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, the robust U.S.-South Korea alliance and the close bilateral coordination greatly contributed to bringing such changes. The two leaders resolved to strengthen the coordination and cooperation between their two countries. Song explained that defense-related agreements from the inter-Korean Summits will be faithfully implemented and that he will continue to provide defense-level support to ensure implementation of the other agreements. In particular he emphasized that it is important to continue to strongly maintain the U.S.-South Korea defense posture through every step of alleviating military tensions and building trust between the two Koreas, and noted that he will continue to closely communicate with the U.S. in this regard.

Mattis reaffirmed that the ironclad U.S. defense commitment to South Korea will continue to be maintained regardless of the changes in the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, and to this end, noted that U.S. Forces Korea will continue to maintain the current level of forces. Moreover, he stressed that the role of the military will continue to be to reinforce diplomatic measures, such as through cooperation to enforce implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions aimed at the objective of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

The secretary and the South Korean minister recognized the progress towards preparation for the operational command transition. This includes acquiring the necessary alliance capabilities and developing strategic documents and operational plans, and the commitment to strengthen cooperation to expeditiously meet the necessary conditions for the transition.
The two sides shared the understanding that the upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit will serve as a historic opportunity towards denuclearization and building lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, and resolved to further strengthen the bilateral ministerial communication and coordination to provide defense-level support for setting favorable conditions for the summit.

Retired Airman Meets Biological Sister at DoD Warrior Games

By Shannon Collins, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- She’s competing in track and field and indoor rowing, but medically retired Air Force Senior Airman Karah Behrend couldn’t concentrate on training yesterday for the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy here.

For the first time, Behrend was going to meet her 18-year-old biological sister, Crystal Boyd, who lives in Puyallup, Washington.

After training, Behrend anxiously waited until she was whisked off to the hotel for the meeting, which she said was surreal.

“I have been picturing this moment for a long time and for it to finally happen, I couldn’t be happier,” Behrend said. “We keep in touch through social media but we’re trying to make plans for me to meet our dad and have them meet my family.”

“I’ve been extremely excited but I knew it would happen sometime. I just didn’t know when,” Boyd said. “Throughout the time I’ve known her, she’s gone through so much and watching her overcome everything right in front of my eyes, in person here at the DoD Warrior Games, is an honor. She’s always had the strength and now she’s going out and doing what we all knew she could do. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Boyd said she also can’t wait to meet Behrend’s family. “We’ve already talked about me visiting her and her family in Texas,” she said. “I’m excited to meet my nieces.”

Call to Service

Claiming Gilford, Connecticut, and Bradenton, Florida, as her hometowns, Behrend, 24, said she grew up moving around as a kid. She was adopted when she was four years old by an Army Ranger.

“My brother and I were adopted because when my biological dad got back from Desert Shield/Desert Storm, he wasn’t really the same person. So my mom spilt with him pretty rapidly to get us out of the situation,” she said. “As my mom told me about him, I was like, ‘I need to meet him. This is half of me. I don’t know who he is.’ We somehow got in contact with him. I think through his sister randomly. I talked to him for two hours that night and found out I had a sister.”

“Our dad told me about her and our brother while growing up, so I always knew about her. I just didn’t know her. She actually got in contact with me. I never knew how to find her so I just waited,” Boyd said.

Behrend said she’s tried to meet up with her sister a few times throughout the years, but it’s been difficult since she has been in the Air Force for the past six years.

Shared Service

Behrend said she joined the Air Force as a communications signals analyst because of her family’s military legacy. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “My grandfather served during the Vietnam era. My biological father was in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. My adopted dad was a Ranger down in Panama for the Panama crisis. It’s just something our family does.”

When Behrend reconnected with her biological dad, she said they had that military bond. “It was an immediate, talk about everything bond,” she said. “I can call him and say, ‘This is going on; what do I do?’ He tries; we’ve been working on rebuilding that relationship. He said he will always be thankful that someone was able to come in and step into our lives to make sure we’re okay.”

In 2015, Behrend had a surgical complication that resulted in reflex sympathetic dystrophy. She said the neurological disorder impacts her involuntary functions such as temperature control, blood pressure, heart rate, pain, inflammation, swelling and other functions that a person doesn’t actively control. When she runs, she said she feels like her leg will go out from under her.

“It causes a lot of pain, instability and weakness in my right leg,” she said. “I also had a spinal injury from a car accident so it messes with my left one too.”

Her sister has severe epilepsy. Behrend said her disability is rare but since both of their disabilities are neurological, it’s an extra bond they can share and talk about.

Behrend has two little children as well as her sister to keep her motivated. “I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that if something happens, you just stop your entire life,” she said. “It’s not what life it about. Life it experiences. I don’t even see them as positive or negative anymore. Just experience it. It pushes me in one way or another but I grow.”

She encourages others to push themselves as well. “It doesn’t matter how early or late something happens or what he magnitude is. As long as you do it with all of your heart and you put everything you have into it, no matter what, it’s going to work,” she said passionately.

“Just because you have some kind of disability doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it,” Boyd said. “You can’t allow it to stop you from doing the things you want to do and the things you want to do. Even with obstacles, you can overcome whatever you truly put your mind to. Neither Karah nor I let our disorders define us. It’s a part of us, but it is not us.”

DoD Warrior Games

So far at these Warrior Games, Behrend has earned gold medals in her disability category in the women’s discus and shot put competitions. She broke a record in shot put in her category.

Boyd said she’s inspired not only by her sister but by the athletes at her first games.

“Watching everyone here inspires me,” she said. “These athletes decided to serve our nation, and even after they’ve been injured in some way they still continue to serve by inspiring everyone around them.”

Boyd added, “Even though you have a disability, it doesn’t define you. With a good support system, anything is possible. As long as you put your mind to it, give some effort and trust those around you, things will start moving. Don’t forget things take time. Don’t stress if things don’t happen as fast as you want them to.”