Thirty-nine seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors from across the country landed in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this week to begin training for the fifth annual Warrior Games, which kick off at the Olympic Training Center Sept. 28, according to Navy News Service.
The weeklong training camp, which began Sept. 22, will help the athletes acclimate to the 7,000-foot altitude and encourage team bonding. By practicing together, Team Navy will compete more effectively against wounded warriors from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations during the Warrior Games.
During the Warrior Games, nearly 200 accomplished wounded warrior athletes will go head-to-head in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball.
Members of Team Navy were selected after an intensive trials event in June in Norfolk, Virginia. More than 70 seriously wounded, ill and injured service members — the largest turnout at any Navy adaptive sports event — competed for a spot on the team roster.
Since then, the Team Navy athletes have participated in two other training events including a camp at the cutting-edge facilities at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, and practiced at home.
"For many of the sports, including basketball, volleyball, swimming and archery, the services are sharing spaces for training," said Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) Acting Deputy Director Lenora Weatherford. "The athletes have been mentoring each other regardless of service affiliation. Though this is a competition, at the end of the day, it is primarily an opportunity for them to heal — and to help each other heal — through sport."
Retired Navy Legalman 1st Class Shahnaz Askins, who hails from Suffolk, Virginia, is one of the athletes who will be competing.
Askins joined the Navy in December 1995. Her family has an extensive military history; however, she is proud to have been only the second woman in her family to serve. She also hoped to take advantage of the generous education benefits offered through the Navy, as she wanted to pursue advanced degrees that would prepare her for life after the military.
During her naval career, Askins most enjoyed traveling the world and experiencing how other cultures live and the food they eat. She was deployed to Iraq from April to October 2004, and her experiences in combat led to post-traumatic stress disorder and other disabilities. Her condition was further aggravated during a subsequent deployment to Kuwait. Unfortunately, she did not receive treatment for her condition until 2009, when she was transferred off a ship and began the medical evaluation process. She was soon enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's support program for seriously wounded, ill and injured service members and their families.
NWW connected Askins to adaptive sports — athletic activities modified to meet the abilities of injured or ill individuals. Askins already was an accomplished athlete who participated in weightlifting and Crossfit competitions.
Askins will compete in swimming and track and field, and she hopes to bring home a medal.
"I am extremely excited to be part of Team Navy and compete at my first Warrior Games," she said.
Askins officially retired from the Navy in 2012, and she currently is pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology at Regent University. After she obtains her degree, she plans to pursue a doctorate degree in physical therapy.
Retired Navy Seaman La'Mar Linton, who is from Portsmouth, Virginia, will also be joining in the Warrior Games. Linton joined the Navy in 2007. Previously an enlisted soldier, he left the Army with the goal of becoming a warrant officer in the Navy. During the previous year, he had deployed as soldier to a combat zone in Iraq, and he soon began experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and other conditions.
Linton returned to Iraq with the Navy in 2008, and that tour aggravated his PTSD and other health issues. His recovery has been a difficult and ongoing journey, and he credits his girlfriend, Tiffany, with helping him turn his life around.
Linton will compete in track and field events. He has long been an avid sports fan, and, when he was growing up, he dreamed of becoming a professional football player or a track star like Michael Johnson. He is very grateful for the positive impact that adaptive sports has had on him; he realizes now that, even though he is injured, he can still pursue his passions.
"Earlier this year, I would never have thought that I would make it here. This event has given me a second chance at a childhood dream," Linton said.
Since its inception in 2010, the Warrior Games have been hosted by the United States Olympic Committee and presented by Deloitte Corporation with support from the Department of Defense. The event emphasizes capabilities —not disabilities — and the role of sports in the recovery of seriously wounded, ill and injured service members, according to Navy News Service.
All of the wounded warrior athletes on Team Navy are enrolled in NWW. The team includes active-duty and retired service members with upper-body, lower-body and spinal cord injuries; serious illnesses; traumatic brain injuries; visual impairment; and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Warrior Games conclude Oct. 4.
To learn more about NWW and adaptive athletics, visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil, call 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest news about Team Navy will be posted on Facebook at www.facebook.com/navysafeharbor.
For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cni/.
For more Navy news go to: Navy News Service.