2015 Dod Warrior Games: Track Events

Wounded Warriors: It’s about family

By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.
Air Force Social Media Team

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, between 11 and 20 percent of 100 veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a given year. Also, Traumatic Brain Injury is much more common in the general population than previously thought, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program works hand-in-hand with the Air Force Survivor Assistance Program and Airman and Family Readiness Centers to ensure Airmen receive professional support and care from the point of injury, through separation or retirement and for life.

2015 Dod Warrior Games: Track Events
U.S. Air Force Veteran Senior Airman Haley Gilbraith, competes in the wheelchair 100-yard dash during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015. The DoD Warrior Games consists of athletes from throughout the Department Of Defense, who compete in Paralympic style events for their respective military branch. The goal of the games is to help highlight the limitless potential of warriors through competitive sports. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)

This year, the AFW2 team is at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games from June 19-28. If you can picture the Olympics but with a military twist then you would be able to get a glimpse of what the Warrior Games are all about. It’s all about competition, camaraderie and commitment.

“I thought that nobody understood me, and I felt alone,” said U.S. Air Force veteran Master Sgt. Lisa Hodgdon, an Air Force wounded warrior athlete. “My wounded warrior care manager told me about the DoD Warrior Games. The Warrior Games are more than just sports; they’re about family.”

The adaptive sports and athletic reconditioning activities play a fundamental role in recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration of service members back to their units, or as they transition into the civilian environment.

“I’m just happy to be a part of the team and to serve in any capacity to assist our warriors in their recovery,” said Nicole Hart, AFW2 career readiness program manager.

Sports have the ability to bring people together from all walks of life. Sometimes just being accepted into a group or team is the genesis to a ground breaking social improvement in the life of that person.

Warrior Games support
A young Team Air Force supporter roots on her team during the Field events at the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015. The Warrior Games, founded in 2010, is a Paralympic-style competition that features eight adaptive sports for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces. This year marks the first time the DoD takes responsibility for operational planning and coordination of the event, in which approximately 250 athletes are expected to compete. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kathy Reesey/Released

“Without the Warrior Games and the AFW2 staff I don’t know if he would be here,” said Tami Caswell, wife of Tech. Sgt. Jason Caswell, Air Force wounded warrior athlete. “Because of the Warrior Games we have gained a family. It is truly a lifesaving program for the warrior and the caregiver.”

During my interactions with the AFW2 staff and faculty throughout the Warrior Games, I was amazed at the “service before self attitude” demonstrated. It is said that the Air Force is an Airmen’s family away from family, and that is truly the mindset of the staff, coaches, caregivers and athletes of the AFW2 program.

“The AFW2 program and the Warrior Games give wounded warriors like me what we need in order to overcome any barriers in our life,” said U.S. Air Force veteran Master Sgt. Lisa Hodgdon, an Air Force wounded warrior athlete.

Now it’s your turn. How has your experience been with the AFW2 program?