QUANTICO, Va. (NNS) — Team Navy claimed its first gold medals at the DoD Warrior Games during track and field competitions June 23 at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.
Additionally, for the first time since the inception of the games in 2010, Navy's wheelchair basketball team advanced to the finals, ultimately taking home a silver medal.
"I've had the pleasure of watching this [wheelchair basketball] team play together many times, and they make us proud," said Vice Adm. Dixon R. Smith, commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC). Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor, which sponsors Team Navy, is a CNIC program.
On the field, the wounded warrior athletes contended with blistering heat while competing in seated and standing shot put, and seated and standing discus. Team Navy's retired Naval Air Crewman Brett Parks, who is friends with wounded warrior athletes on all of the teams, raised his arms in exclamation and waved to everyone when his name was called and he entered the shooting circle.
"I beat my personal best with an 8.95 score," Parks said excitedly after his shot put throw. "I'm throwing further than I did last year by two meters, but everybody else improved, too!"
Wife of Team Navy member Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Ryan "Austin" Reese, and their daughters, Aspen, age 13-weeks, and Nadia, age 4 years old, cheered all of the athletes on the field. "The games are inspirational! This is a fantastic opportunity for us to meet people in similar situations and gain a support network," said Charity Reese.
After a morning of tough competition on the field, track events were interrupted by a severe thunderstorm. Retired Navy Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Donald Jackson won a gold medal in a sprint event before wet conditions postponed the competition. The remaining track events have been rescheduled for Sunday, June 28, before the closing ceremony.
At the wheelchair basketball game in Barber Gym, enthusiastic spectators filled the stands and gave both teams a standing ovation at halftime. Team Navy ultimately fell to the Marines 57 to 24 after a grueling match during which they fought for every point.
On June 24, virtually all of the U.S. service members competing in the Warrior Games took part in meet-and-greet events on Capitol Hill. During the morning, members of Team Navy took time to meet with their local representatives. After lunch, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) welcomed the wounded warriors to Capitol Hill during remarks in Statuary Hall in the Capitol building.
On June 25, Navy's sitting volleyball team took part in a round-robin tournament to determine the bracket for the upcoming playoffs. The team earned a gold medal at last year's games, and the athletes are looking forward to another great year.
"These games mean so much to me," said Team Navy member Lt. Cmdr. Maria Gomex-Mannix, a sitting volleyball player who also claimed a silver medal in two women's field events. "I sat by my friend Mark Brown's bed until I got on my flight to come here on Sunday. He died while I was in the air. I am dedicating these games to him. I know that I got the silver medal with his help."
Thirty-nine seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors are competing on behalf of Team Navy this year. The Warrior Games are being held June 19-28. Approximately 250 wounded warrior athletes are participating in the competition.
NWW is the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program. Team members have upper-body and/or lower-body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments, serious illnesses and post-traumatic stress.
To learn more about NWW, the DoD Warrior Games and adaptive sports, visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil; call 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997) or email email@example.com.
Follow NWW on Facebook (www.facebook.com/navysafeharbor) and Twitter (@navysafeharbor) for the latest news from Marine Corps Base Quantico.
For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cni/.