QUANTICO, Va. (NNS) -- Warrior-athletes competing from the total military force - active, guard and reserve - of the U.S. and U.K came together at Marine Corps Base Quantico to commence the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games June 19.
In previous years, the games were held in Colorado Springs, but the change in location to Quantico is a welcome one.
Capt. Brent Breining - director of Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) - Safe Harbor, which sponsors Team Navy - explained the benefit of the new location.
"The support from our senior leaders in Washington, D.C. is very important. This year we're getting a lot more representation from senior leaders because of the proximity to D.C.," Breining said. "It's exciting for us to have SECDEF opening it up and showing his support for wounded warriors."
Spectators also were excited to see this demonstration of support. As Josh Mason of Washington, D.C., explained, "It was outstanding to see all levels of DoD represented today, supporting our nation's heroes."
In addition to the high-ranking DoD speakers at the ceremony, Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) Adm. Michelle Howard were among the spectators who came out to encourage athletes.
The goal of the DoD Warrior Games is not necessarily to identify the most skilled athletes, but rather to demonstrate the incredible potential of wounded warriors through competitive sports. Team Navy's athletes embody this potential in their positive attitudes and athletic abilities.
Lt. Cmdr. Maria Gomez-Mannix of Hamden, Connecticut, described her anticipation for the games.
"I'm so excited to be here. Being selected for Team Navy has been a real privilege and honor," said Gomez-Mannix. She competed in last year's Invictus Games in London, winning a bronze medal in women's shotput, but this is her first DoD Warrior Games. She will be competing in the shooting, standing shotput, standing discus throwing and seated volleyball events.
Beyond athletic accomplishments, the games represent a significant part of the recovery process for participating service members.
The 2015 DoD Warrior Games symbolize to all wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans across the nation and around the world that individuals can recover from serious injury or illness and lead fulfilling, productive and inspiring lives.
Lt. Steven Simmons (Ret.) of Perry, Ohio, is one such example. In addition to preparing at wounded warrior training camps, Simmons recently competed in the Salt Lake City Marathon in hand cycle. He will be competing in the archery, cycling, track and field, and wheelchair basketball events at the games.
Simmons declared his excitement for the unique balance between competition and camaraderie that exists at the games.
"I'm looking forward to seeing all the branches come together, including our U.K. brothers and sisters who are here, and seeing everyone prepared to represent their service and their country, and put forth their best effort," said Simmons.
Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Ashton Carter provided inspiring opening remarks to the athletes, caregivers, family, friends and spectators assembled at the opening ceremony for the games. He highlighted the important link that adaptive sports programs provide to recovering service members.
"You are the pinnacle of DoD adaptive sports programs...activities that have helped our men and women heal together in mind, body and soul," Carter affirmed.
Adaptive sports and reconditioning activities help enable healing through a holistic approach throughout the recovery and reintegration process: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and, most importantly, socially - as service members and veterans share and learn through their common experiences.
"As you run, shoot and swim in competition for the prized Chairman's Cup, each of you is a testament to the healing power of sport. Sports provide a place to come together, to learn, to grow, to rehabilitate," Carter said. "Sports keep us going. They can fuel a sense of purpose, and they can remind us that we can get back up, dust off our uniforms and push ourselves to our limits once again."
Forty wounded warrior athletes are competing on behalf of Team Navy this year. The Warrior Games take place June 19-28, and approximately 250 service members with upper-body, lower-body, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments, serious illnesses and post-traumatic stress will compete in archery, wheelchair basketball, cycling, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.
In addition to winners in each event, there will be an Ultimate Champion competition in a pentathlon format, as well as a Chairman's Cup award for the top-performing service branch.
To learn more about NWW and the support it provides wounded warriors, as well as the DoD Warrior Games and adaptive sports, visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil; call 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow NWW and Team Navy's progress on Facebook (www.facebook.com/navysafeharbor) and Twitter (@navysafeharbor) for the latest news from the games.
For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cni/.