Events and Partnerships
More than 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from all four U.S. military branches, U.S. Special Operations Command and five partner nations competed in adaptive sports for the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games, hosted by U.S. Special Operation Command in Tampa Bay, Florida June 21-30. This year’s iteration marks only the second time the Warrior Games have been held at a public venue and not on a military installation.
The games were free to watch, open to the public and offered a rare opportunity to watch and be inspired by wounded warriors who have shown incredible resilience as they overcame significant physical and psychological challenges to compete in adaptive sports all around Tampa. Crowd support is a huge boost for the athletes as well, allowing them to gain a sense of self confidence as they compete. “Warrior Games provide opportunities for athletes to heal and to regain confidence,” said Scott Danberg, this year’s sports director.
“When the service members walk into the ceremony and hear the crowd cheer, the value and support really sink in.” The opening ceremony was held June 22 at AMALIE Arena and kicked off with a procession of teams entering the packed arena to high-energy music and standing ovations from the crowd. Comedian Jon Stewart was the host and came out following a skit that featured a faux news video claiming the torch for the games had been stolen.
The torch was passed around the arena by multiple athletes before finally being used by USSOCOM Commander Army Gen. Richard Clarke, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and WWE wrestler Titus O’Neill to light the cauldron. Clarke and Castor spoke to the crowd along with Mr. Ken Fisher, Chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. Each speaker praised the unbreakable spirit of the athletes and their families and their resilience after becoming wounded, ill or injured which inspires many. The show ended with a concert from country music star Hunter Hayes.
It was Jon Stewart’s fourth year participating in the Warrior Games and when asked why he makes the time to participate, he was quick to answer. “I keep coming back to the games for these athletes,” he said. “They don’t give up, so I’m not going to give up on them.”
The athletes are fiercely competitive and train throughout the year to prepare, but the games are about so much more than just the medals earned. Through adaptive sports and reconditioning activities, service members get help with healing in a multitude of ways throughout their recovery and reintegration process: mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.
“Being part of the Warrior Games is both rewarding and inspiring,” said Army Spc. Christopher Dalton Mask, a golf team member. “It’s motivating to still feel part of something bigger.”
Teams representing the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy, U.S. Special Operations Command, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Netherlands and Denmark competed in archery, cycling, golf, indoor rowing, powerlifting, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis, track and field.
The Paralympic-style sports competition was held throughout the Tampa Bay area, including AMALIE Arena, the Tampa Convention Center, Clearwater's Long Aquatic Center and the University of South Florida and concluded June 30 with the closing ceremony at AMALIE Arena. For more information visit https://dodwarriorgames.com/.