COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (NNS) -- More than 200 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen opened the 2011 Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympics Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 16th.
The ceremony began with a "march of the athletes" along the Olympic Path which was lined with flag-waving and cheering family members, friends and supporters, and was followed by the time-honored tradition of carrying the torch to light the Olympic flame.
Replete with military honors, including a flyover by Navy F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, the ceremony kicked-off a challenging and competitive week for wounded, injured and seriously-ill athletes.
Representing the Navy-Coast Guard team as torchbearers were Logistics Specialist 1st Class Robert Lipscomb and retired Coast Guardsman Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Michael K. Bell. They were part of a group of six service members representing each of the military branches along with Special Operations Command who were given the honor to carry the torch to Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who lit the flame above the training center for the games.
For Lipscomb and Bell, carrying the torch meant much more than merely fulfilling a tradition.
"Carrying that torch shows that we can overcome anything before us," said Lipscomb. "It also represented the men and women who've given the ultimate sacrifice. That flame was a symbol of hope and freedom."
The 2011 Warrior Games are Lipscomb's first. The Goldsboro, N.C., native was diagnosed with stage IV diffuse gastric cancer in August 2010. Although he is still in the process of taking chemotherapy, Lipscomb said he is highly motivated to beat his odds and has set some high goals for the competition.
Lipscomb will participate in three events during the games: cycling (30-kilometer road race), shooting (10-meter air pistol) and wheelchair basketball. The husband and father of two daughters, Lipscomb serves on active duty with Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group in Williamsburg, Va.
For Bell, a two-time participant and bronze medal winner in the inaugural 2010 Warrior Games, being a torch bearer provided a symbol of hope.
"For me carrying that torch shows that there is hope after injury," he said. "You have to adapt and overcome."
Bell will be competing in the 10-kilometer Recumbent Cycling Road Race as well as shot put and discus events. In 2007, Bell was stricken at the age of 22 with a stroke that left his entire right side paralyzed. Through a year-and-a-half rehabilitation and hard work, he relearned to walk, talk, eat and do many other basic daily tasks.
He medically retired from the Coast Guard and now lives in Union, Mo., where attends college and is working toward earning a master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. He also participates in cycling events, such as the Tour de Corn, the Tour de Cure (diabetes) and the MS 150, a 150-mile bike ride for multiple sclerosis.
The 2011 Warrior Games will continue through May 21, and will include competitions in cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, volleyball, swimming, and track and field events.
Team Navy/Coast Guard is sponsored by Navy Safe Harbor, the lead organization for coordinating non-medical care of wounded, ill and injured Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and their families. Through proactive leadership, Safe Harbor provides a lifetime of individually tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of enrollees' recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration activities.
For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp/.