By Mikelle D.Smith
In honor of Warrior Care Month 2011, military personnel from every branch of service participated in the Wounded Warrior Wheelchair Basketball Exhibition held at the Pentagon Athletic Center, Nov. 18.
Wounded Sailors had the opportunity to share in the festivities alongside key Navy leadership including Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) the Honorable Juan M. Garcia; Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Admiral Kevin M. McCoy; and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West, during a two-hour basketball clinic followed by the basketball exhibition.
“The most important thing about this event is to highlight these wounded warriors and understand that the best days of their lives and service to country are still ahead of them,” said Garcia. “To see what our wounded warriors are challenged with every day is really a humbling experience. I can unstrap myself and get out of this chair at any moment, and some of them can’t which is a testament to their spirit.”
Personnel not directly involved with the event were also given the opportunity to get in a chair and shoot hoops with the service members, which provided further insight to the continuous potential and determination of wounded warriors.
“Being out here with these warriors and getting to do this is a great experience and an honor,” said West. “They are determined, and they are ready to get down to business. They are a really talented group and they make it look easy when it is really quite challenging.”
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Frank, wounded warrior and participant, expressed his gratitude for the men and women that took the time to acknowledge and support warrior care month, as well as the continued efforts of organizations that sponsor events such as the exhibition.
“Really, you never know the types of abilities you need to play basketball in a wheelchair until you get in one and start shooting around,” said Frank. “I want to personally thank Navy Safe Harbor, because they really put forth a lot of effort to bring us [wounded warriors] together and give us the support we need to get back into doing physical activities again. I really appreciate it.”
The event was sponsored by Navy Safe Harbor and the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment. Both organizations focus on providing wounded warriors and their families with non-medical care assistance and concerns such as transitioning back to active duty or the civilian community.
“This event gives the people here the opportunity to experience both sides of the equation when dealing with wounded warriors,” said Will Wilson, program manager for Navy Wounded Warrior Adaptive Reconditioning and Sports. “Having experienced both sides, being a wounded warrior myself, I can tell you that athletics is a lifesaving adventure. I’ve had athletes say that this is the only thing that keeps them going. If we can expose our leadership to what these guys have to experience every single day, it’s advantageous.”
Warrior Care Month is a national, joint-service effort to honor wounded warriors and their families. The theme of Warrior Care Month 2011 is “Unleashing Unlimited Potential: Healing a Wounded Warrior’s Mind, Body and Spirit.”