COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (NNS) -- Two-time Paralympic gold medalist and former Team Navy member Lt. Brad Snyder - alongside Britain's Prince Harry and U.S. swimming superstar Missy Franklin - lit the cauldron to kick off the fourth annual Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center May 11 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"I am humbled by the opportunity to still be a part of something very near and dear to my heart," said Snyder, who was blinded by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011. "I love my Navy teammates and I am really proud of all of them."
Retired Navy Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Jim Castaneda was the Team Navy torchbearer. During a brief torch relay he and representatives from the other Warrior Games teams took turns carrying the torch toward the cauldron. Castaneda, who uses a wheelchair, was pushed by his teammate and friend, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Angelo Anderson.
"I was so honored to be the torchbearer for Team Navy this year," said Castaneda, who has attended every Warrior Games since the event's inception three years ago. "When I carried the torch, it really represented who we are as a team, because I couldn't do it alone; I had Angelo helping me. That's who we are - we all help each other."
In October 2007, Castaneda suffered a stroke during muster aboard USS Tortuga (LSD 46) while the ship was underway near the Philippines. He is accompanied at the Warrior Games by his wife Alona, who provides encouragement and non-medical support to him during competition. This year, Castaneda will participate in seated shot put.
"After my stroke, when I was in bed recovering, I remember seeing inspiring things in the news that gave me motivation. I hope seeing me carrying the torch gave someone else recovering in bed some hope, and that they know they are not alone," Castaneda added.
At the conclusion of the Opening Ceremonies, Anderson participated in a brief press conference with athletes from the other Warrior Games teams, where he was able to interact with Snyder, Franklin, three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor and two-time Paralympic silver medalist Kari Miller.
"It was so cool to meet the Olympians," said Anderson. "I get an enormous amount of inspiration from Brad Snyder. He got me back in the pool last year."
Shortly after Opening Ceremonies, representatives from the five U.S. Warrior Games teams, as well as senior military leadership, participated in a seated volleyball exhibition against the U.K. team, which included Prince Harry. Retired Navy Aviation Electrician's Mate Steven Davis was among the Navy representatives, and he engaged in good-natured verbal sparring with the Prince.
"We were giving each a hard time when we sat directly across the net from each other. It was a lot of fun to play against him," Davis said.
The Warrior Games includes competitions in archery, cycling, seated volleyball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball. The goal of the Warrior Games isn't necessarily to identify the most skilled athletes, but rather to demonstrate the incredible potential of wounded warriors through competitive sports.
Team Navy is sponsored by Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) - Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program. The team members have upper-body and/or lower-body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments, serious illnesses, and/or post-traumatic stress.
For the latest news about the 2013 Warrior Games, visit the NWW Facebook page (facebook.com/navysafehabor). For more information about NWW and adaptive athletics, call 855-NAVY WWP (628-9995), email navywoundedwarrior @navy.mil or visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil.
For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cni/
For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cni/.