COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (NNS) -- The biggest message everyone should take away from this week's Warrior Games is that "the best time in the lives of wounded warriors is still ahead," said a top Navy leader.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Juan M. Garcia spoke May 15 during wheelchair basketball games at the Air Force Academy.
He said the motivation and commitment wounded warriors have shown here demonstrates that they will succeed at anything they put their minds to.
These wounded warriors "were great athletes before they were injured and now they're even better athletes, having overcome their physical and emotional challenges," he said.
And, the Navy and the other services will have their backs, he added.
"I want all service members and their families to know that even in this difficult budget environment, wounded warrior programs are fenced off," he said. "That's our commitment to these young men and women who raised their right hands and went into harm's way. It's a lifetime commitment."
Garcia didn't just visit the wounded warriors this week, he interacted with them on a personal level, even joining the Navy/Coast Guard team and later the Marine Corps team in wheelchair basketball practice sessions.
The experience "was humbling," he said, adding that he was sore from the games for a long time.
The athletes take the competition seriously, he said, while watching the Navy/Coast Guard team play the Marines. He said he was conflicted over which sea service team to root for.
Also speaking at the wheelchair games May 15 was Vice Adm. Kevin Michael McCoy, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command.
He described the atmosphere at the games as "supercharged."
"These athletes are showing the same passion and tenacity as they had on the battlefield," he said. "That's a real testament to what these folks can do. They still have the heart and the teamwork and the perseverance."
McCoy said that he and his NavSea command are so impressed by the wounded warrior's skills, experience, achievements and attitude that over the past four years, they've hired some 1,600 wounded warriors who are now designing, building and overhauling the Navy's fleet of ships.
NavSea is the largest employer of wounded warriors in the government and he said he can't hire enough of them -- from all the services.
McCoy has visited Warrior Games every year since its conception in 2010.
Another thing he said that impressed him was the "incredible development of those athletes who choose to return to the games each year."
He added that it's also great to see their families in attendance to support them.
"They're really engaged in it," he said.