Nearly 200 wounded members of the armed forces gathered beneath the Olympic Rings at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs yesterday to usher in the inaugural Warrior Games – a Paralympic competition amongst members of all branches of the U.S. military.
The event pits wounded, ill and injured military personnel against one another in the sports of archery, cycling, track & field, swimming, shooting, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. The games represent a way for disabled servicemen and women to develop and showcase their abilities while building camaraderie and supporting physical and emotional recovery.
“Sports are, a lot of times, a new lease on life. You realize, ‘maybe I’m not as disabled as I thought,’” said Marine Corps MSGT Spanky Gibson. Competing in sports helps wounded servicemen “overcome the psychological barriers to recovery,” Spanky explained. “Everything else – the physical barriers – can be overcome through medication, treatment, physical therapy. This helps heal their self esteem.”
A member of the Marine Corps since 1981, Spanky was on foot patrol in 2006 when he took a bullet through the knee during a firefight. As a result, his left leg was amputated above the knee.
The Warrior Games, which continue through May 14, are particularly well-timed for Spanky: they coincide with the anniversary of his injury – or rather, his survival.
“This Sunday is my ‘live’ date,” Spanky said. He’ll be marking the occasion by competing in the “Ultimate Warrior” competition, a pentathlon of sports.