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NEWS | June 21, 2024

2024 DOD Warrior Games

By Robert Whetstone Army Recovery Care Program

The Department of Defense Warrior Games officially began today and will run through June 30, 2024, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command is the host for this year’s event that features hundreds of wounded, ill, and injured active duty and veteran service members, competing in adaptive sports as part of their recovery journeys.

This year marks the 14th anniversary where teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the Australian Defence Force come to compete in the adaptive sports competition.

Some of the Warrior Games ‘veterans’ have returned to support the event in a different capacity.

Brandi Evans, a staff operations and training specialist at the Fort Bliss, Texas Soldier Recovery Unit, is supporting this year’s Warrior Games as a mentor to Army athletes. Having participated in previous Warrior Games, she offers a unique perspective to giving back to new athletes.

“When I first served as a mentor, I believed that it was the next best thing to competing,” explained Evans. “But over the past few years, I found that what I do for the athletes is far more rewarding than any medal.”

“I have been very fortunate to have served as an athlete mentor the last few years,” she said. “It is truly fulfilling to be able to give back to the program that was a crucial part of my recovery journey. Since I no longer compete, this is the opportunity to stay connected to the Team Army family and continue to provide support and guidance through mentorship to the athletes.”

The Army Recovery Care Program promotes adaptive sports that provides opportunities for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and veterans to start and continue their road to recover and overcome their life-challenges. Warrior Games are part of the process.

“The Warrior Games is a medium for recovery, wellness, and personal development,” said U.S. Army Maj. Casey Turner, the adaptive reconditioning officer in charge at the Army Recovery Care Program. “The impact of Warrior Games is not confined to the 10 days of athletic competition. The journey these athletes endure starts from the moment they sustain their injuries and begin their rehabilitation processes.”

Adaptive sports the athletes are participating in during this year’s Warrior Games are archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, field, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, shooting, indoor rowing, and powerlifting.

They are called adaptive sports because the focus is on helping service members realize they can still participate in the same activities after their injury, wound or illness, with small adjustments that enable them to compete. Events and equipment are modified to enable athletes to adjust to a specific classification that matches their injury, wound, or illness.

“This event (DOD Warrior Games) and all the lead up events promote the pillars of Army Values and helps participants to achieve their personal best within their new normal,” said Turner. “These athletes train and condition their bodies for optimal athletic performance which not only improves their physical health but overflows into emotional, mental, social, and personal growth.”

The SRUs these Soldier-athletes are assigned to, play an important role in preparing individuals not only for the Warrior Games, but for their future physical and mental wellbeing, whether it is to return to duty, or transition to civilian life.

“The Fort Bliss SRU helped me on my road to recovery because all the activities offered at the SRU aided in my recovery,” said Spc. Alexis Pantoja. “It’s great that the SRU has helped me because I would not have been able to figure out things on my own. It was only after spending months and months in recovery would I look back and say that it’s exactly what I needed.” Pantoja does not see any limits to future progress.

“The SRU helped in so many different ways,” said Capt. Hannah Wright, who spent her recovery time with the Joint Base San Antonio SRU, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Wright said she received help in ways she didn’t even expect she needed help with.

Wright gave great credit to the occupational, physical, and recreational therapists that helped her and others to renew their mindset and realize they could retain their competitive edge, exploring new ways and sports to push the envelope. “Trying all these events is getting to challenge yourself in a new way and remind yourself you are still a warrior in your own right,” she stated.

“The DOD Warrior Games is so important because it gives American warriors and international allies a professional platform to continue their lives as competitors in a like-minded team with a shared history and mission,” Turner added.

Warrior Games is a competition between the services, but everyone understands they are all on the same team that fights and wins the nation’s wars. They cheer one another across the finish line, no matter what branch of service they belong to, while grinding out a “win” they won before they came to the ‘Magic Kingdom.’

“These athletes are part of my “why” and they continue to inspire me,” said Evans.