After all the fanfare, the crowds and the cameras, Team Navy joined their fellow competitors July 8 at a small event at Navy Pier in Chicago to celebrate the conclusion of the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games, hosted by the Navy.
The event was closed to the public. Only the athletes and their loved ones gathered to say goodbye to new friends and to share the new memories they have made.
The Games included teams from each of the U.S. military services, as well as teams from the United Kingdom and Australia.
The teams competed in archery, cycling, track and field, shooting, swimming, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.
The Warrior Games introduced wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans to Paralympic-style sports.
The event demonstrated the incredible potential of wounded warriors and provided a tremendous healing power to the athletes.
(Thirty-nine Sailors are participating in the Warrior Games, a Paralympic–style competition for wounded, ill and injured service members in the Department of Defense, the United Kingdom and Australia. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy and YouTube)
One of the most impactful elements of the Games, however, was the sense of community that formed among the athletes.
“It gives you a chance to be a part of a family – people who understand,” said Aviation Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Andrea Dubus, Team Navy athlete.
Cultivating that sense of community is a key part of Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) – Safe Harbor’s adaptive sports program.
NWW is the Navy’s sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Coast Guard members and providing resources and support to their families.
All NWW enrollees are encouraged to make athletics a key component of their recovery efforts.
The network of wounded warriors provides encouragement to those who have recently entered the recovery process by proving that a full life is still possible.
“I was scared to go to the gym,” said retired Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Joseph Engfer, Team Navy athlete.
(Meet US Navy Veteran Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph Engfer. Courtesy of DoD Warrior Games and YouTube)
“I was scared to do anything with my arm. They made me realize that I could push a wheelchair with my arm, and I could shoot a gun again.”
“I can still shoot archery now with my mouth. It’s pretty sweet. Everything else just came with it. It just made me more excited to do it because I saw people worse off than me doing it.”
Engfer went on to say that the inspiration wounded warriors gain from each other through the adaptive sports program extends beyond athletics.
“I think it gives them hope that they can do other things than just sit at home.”
It is this community and its power to inspire that is the real legacy of the Warrior Games and NWW’s sports program.
(Team Navy hit the mark July 3 in archery at the Warrior Games, a Paralympic-style competition in Chicago for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy and YouTube)