COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (NNS) -- Team Navy celebrated the start of the fifth annual Warrior Games during a festive opening ceremony at the Olympic Training Center, Sept. 28, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After the ceremony, Team Navy, which is sponsored by Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW), Safe Harbor, the Navy's wounded warrior support program, kicked off the competition with two sitting volleyball matches. Team Navy was victorious against the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) team but fell to the Marine Corps.
"I'm excited and nervous about this experience," said Navy Chief Logistics Specialist Averill Malone, a first-time Warrior Games competitor. "I am doing this for my family."
Malone, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following combat deployments in 2007 and 2009, will compete in archery at the Warrior Games.
The opening ceremony was attended by Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. Garfola Wright, and a host of other military leaders. The wounded warrior athletes' friends and families cheered from the bleachers, and keynote speakers focused on the positive influence of adaptive sports on the recovery of seriously wounded, ill and injured service members.
"Over the next six days, you'll be inspired and you'll be overwhelmed," said Charlie Huebner, vice president of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation, while addressing the athletes. "It's not about these six days in Colorado, it's about the other 359 days each year."
Representing Team Navy as torchbearers were retired Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Shericka Goza and retired Navy Chief Yeoman Sharona Young. They are Team Navy's first female torchbearers, and, likewise, they are among the largest group of women ever to compete on behalf of Team Navy at the Warrior Games.
"It was an honor to be a torchbearer, and I'm still surprised that I was chosen," said Young, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year. "Just looking at what [these wounded warrior athletes have] been through - everyone has their own issues, whether they are mental or physical - and just looking at their strength and what they've been able to achieve, it makes me think, 'O.K. I can do this. I don't just have to sit here and deteriorate.'"
On the volleyball court, Team Navy opened the Warrior Games strong with a decisive 2-0 victory over the SOCOM team. Later, despite a close second set, Team Navy lost its second match to the Marine Corps team.
Thirty-nine wounded warrior athletes are competing on behalf of Team Navy this year. The Warrior Games take place Sept. 28-Oct. 4, and approximately 200 service members with upper-body, lower-body, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments, serious illnesses and post-traumatic stress will compete in seven sports.
To learn more about NWW, the Warrior Games and adaptive athletics, visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil; call 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow NWW on Facebook (www.facebook.com/navysafeharbor) and Twitter (@navysafeharbor) for the latest news from Colorado Springs.
For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cni/.